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Communication Across Maternal Social Networks During England’s First National Lockdown and Its Association With Postnatal Depressive Symptoms

Myers, S; Emmott, EH; (2021) Communication Across Maternal Social Networks During England’s First National Lockdown and Its Association With Postnatal Depressive Symptoms. Frontiers in Psychology , 12 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648002. Green open access

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Abstract

Postnatal/postpartum depression (PND/PPD) had a pre-COVID-19 estimated prevalence ranging up to 23% in Europe, 33% in Australia, and 64% in America, and is detrimental to both mothers and their infants. Low social support is a key risk factor for developing PND. From an evolutionary perspective this is perhaps unsurprising, as humans evolved as cooperative childrearers, inherently reliant on social support to raise children. The coronavirus pandemic has created a situation in which support from social networks beyond the nuclear family is likely to be even more important to new mothers, as it poses risks and stresses for mothers to contend with; whilst at the same time, social distancing measures designed to limit transmission create unprecedented alterations to their access to such support. Using data from 162 mothers living in London with infants aged ≤6 months, we explore how communication with members of a mother’s social network related to her experience of postnatal depressive symptoms during the first “lockdown” in England. Levels of depressive symptoms, as assessed via the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, were high, with 47.5% of the participants meeting a ≥11 cut-off for PND. Quasi-Poisson regression modelling found that the number of network members seen in-person, and remote communication with a higher proportion of those not seen, was negatively associated with depressive symptoms; however, contact with a higher proportion of relatives was positively associated with symptoms, suggesting kin risked seeing mothers in need. Thematic qualitative analysis of open text responses found that mothers experienced a burden of constant mothering, inadequacy of virtual contact, and sadness and worries about lost social opportunities, while support from partners facilitated family bonding. While Western childrearing norms focus on intensive parenting, and fathers are key caregivers, our results highlight that it still “takes a village” to raise children in high-income populations and mothers are struggling in its absence.

Type: Article
Title: Communication Across Maternal Social Networks During England’s First National Lockdown and Its Association With Postnatal Depressive Symptoms
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648002
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648002
Language: English
Additional information: © 2021 Myers and Emmott. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Keywords: Postnatal depression, COVID-19, social distancing, lockdown, mothers, cooperative breeding, maternal social networks
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10127647
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