Date of Award

12-2003

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Leonard Handler

Abstract

There is growing evidence that women who experience depression, anxiety, and obstetric complications during pregnancy have significantly higher rates of adverse birth outcomes and postpartum depression. The present study examined hypotheses about the possible roles of marital quality and social support in measures of pregnancy adaptation. Marital quality was measured using the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (Spanier, 1976), and social support using the Social Provisions Scale (Cutrona & Russell, 1987). Pregnancy adaptation was measured in terms of self-reported levels of depressive symptomatolgy, state anxiety, pregnancy-specific anxiety and number of pregnancy complications. The participants were 808 pregnant women in the third trimester of pregnancy (ages 18-50). The data were collected over the Internet. Hypotheses specifying that marital quality and social support would have different effects on measures on pregnancy adaptation were tested in a general linear model. It was expected that social support would modify the relationship between marital quality and measures of pregnancy adaptation therefore providing evidence for the buffering effects of social support during pregnancy. Results confirmed that women who reported higher marital quality showed signs of more positive pregnancy adaptation, whereas those reporting lower marital quality showed indications of poorer pregnancy adaptation, even when controlling for medical risk factors. There was evidence that social support buffered the effects of lower marital quality. The importance of marital quality and social support during pregnancy is highlighted and the implications of the findings are discussed.

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