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POSTPARTUM PARTNER SUPPORT, DEMAND-WITHDRAW COMMUNICATION, AND MATERNAL STRESS

Authors


  • Steven R. Thorp, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center and Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development; Elizabeth D. Krause, Department of Psychology, Duke University; Kelly C. Cukrowicz, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center; Thomas R. Lynch, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center.

  • Steven R. Thorp is now at the Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego and the VA San Diego Healthcare System. Elizabeth D. Krause is now at the Department of Psychiatry, Georgetown University Medical Center.

  • This research was partially supported by Grant AG 00029 from the National Institute of Aging, Grant MH 19934 from the National Institute of Mental Health (Dr. Thorp), and Grant MH 01614 from the National Institute of Mental Health (Dr. Lynch). We wish to thank Dr. Allen Rosenwasser for assistance in obtaining participants for this study and Drs. Alan Fruzzetti and Jennifer Cheavens for comments on earlier drafts.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Steven R. Thorp, Department of Psychiatry (116A-1), University of California, San Diego and the VA San Diego Healthcare System, 3350 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, CA 92161. E-mail: SThorp@ucsd.edu

Abstract

The weeks following the birth of a child can be stressful for new mothers. Maternal stress may be increased when mothers are dissatisfied with instrumental partner support (e.g., division of childcare duties and family decision-making power). The purpose of the current study was to determine if there is an association between dissatisfaction with partner support and maternal stress in the postpartum period, and to examine whether that association is mediated by demand-withdraw communication between partners. Participants were 49 women who completed questionnaires about satisfaction with partner support, female demand/male withdraw communication in their relationship, and their own perceived stress approximately 8 weeks after giving birth. Findings support the hypothesis that demand-withdraw communication mediates the association between dissatisfaction with partner support and maternal stress. This finding suggests that fathers' withdrawal in the context of mothers' requests for discussion or change appears to be associated with increased levels of maternal stress.

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