The ups and downs of early mothering

Janet A. DiPietro, Matthew A. Goldshore, Katie T. Kivlighan, Heather A. Pater, Kathleen A. Costigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: The maternal experience of having a young infant is often viewed through a negative lens focused on psychological distress due, in part, to a historical focus on identifying threats to prenatal, perinatal and postpartum well-being of women and infants. This report examines maternal appraisal of both positive and negative experiences during and after pregnancy and introduces a new scale that assesses both uplifts and hassles that are specific to early motherhood.Methods: The sample included 136 women who began study participation during pregnancy and completed an existing scale designed to evaluate pregnancy-specific hassles and uplifts. When infants were 6 months old, participants completed the newly developed Maternal Experience Scale (MES) along with questionnaires related to anxiety, depression, attachment, parenting stress and infant temperament characteristics.Results: In general, women with 6-month-old infants rated their maternal experiences far more positively than negatively. MES hassles and uplift scores reflected both convergent and discriminant validity with general measures of psychological well-being and parent-specific measures. Appraisal of the pregnancy experience significantly predicted appraisal of early motherhood for hassles, uplifts and a composite score reflecting emotional valence. Women became relatively more uplifted and less hassled from pregnancy to 6-month postpartum; this was particularly true for multiparous women.Discussion: The maternal perception of motherhood corresponds to her perception of pregnancy. The MES provides a balanced view of motherhood by including maternal appraisal of the uplifting aspects of caring for an infant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-102
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology
Volume36
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 3 2015

Keywords

  • Infancy
  • maternal stress
  • motherhood
  • parenting
  • postpartum distress
  • pregnancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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