British Journal of Clinical Psychology

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Volume 39 Issue 4 (November 2000), Pages 329-430

The role of cognitive vulnerability and stress in the prediction of postpartum depressive symptomatology (pages 329-347)

Objectives. The present study was designed to test the diathesis‐stress components of Beck's cognitive theory of depression and the reformulated learned helplessness model of depression in the prediction of postpartum depressive symptomatology.

Design and methods. The research used a two‐wave longitudinal design ‐ data were collected from 65 primiparous women during their third trimester of pregnancy and then 6 weeks after the birth. Cognitive vulnerability and initial depressive symptomatology were assessed at Time 1, whereas stress and postpartum depressive symptomatology were assessed at Time 2.

Results. There was some support for the diathesis‐stress component of Beck's cognitive theory, to the extent that the negative relationship between both general and maternal‐specific dysfunctional attitudes associated with performance evaluation and Time 2 depressive symptomatology was strongest for women who reported high levels of parental stress. In a similar vein, the effects of dysfunctional attitudes (general and maternal‐specific) associated with performance evaluation and need for approval (general measure only) on partner ratings of emotional distress were evident only among those women whose infants were rated as being temperamentally difficult.

Conclusion. There was no support for the diathesis‐stress component of the reformulated learned helplessness model of depression; however, there was some support for the diathesis‐stress component of Beck's cognitive theory.

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