Understanding Postpartum Depression from a Structural Family Theory Perspective: Examining Risk and Protective Factors

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


This study examined pregnancy risk and protective factors for developing postpartum depression from a structural family theory lens. The purpose of this study was to (1) examine previously identified pregnancy stressors to learn which stressors put women more at risk for postpartum depression and (2) to identify possible buffers for women who are at risk for developing postpartum depression. In this paper, two analyses were proposed. Analysis I, uses a hierarchal regression analysis to examine the impact of couple related stress on postpartum depression. Analysis II uses moderated multiple regression to test factors during pregnancy which may protect at-risk women from postpartum depression symptoms. Three post-hoc exploratory analyses were conducted following the originally proposed analyses. Secondary data was used in this study. The data was collected in four large urban hospitals in Utah from 2005-2007 and included 1568 women. The results of these analyses illustrate the importance of conceptualizing postpartum depression from a family systems perceptive. Specifically, this study shows that a couple’s relationship, depending on the stress level experienced in the relationship, can be both a risk and protective factor for pregnant women.



Structural Family Theory, Marital Relationship, Postpartum Depression, Biopsychosocial