Background: This study investigated the mediating role of general and maternal-specific dysfunctional cognitions, in the relationship between non-cognitive risk factors and postnatal depressive symptomatology.
Methods: An Australian community sample comprising 406 postnatal women responded to the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale (DAS), the Maternal Attitudes Questionnaire (MAQ), the Vulnerable Personality Style Questionnaire (VPSQ) and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). They also responded to several questions related to perinatal and postnatal experiences.
Results: Path analysis demonstrated that different mediational pathways operated for different risk factors. The relationship between having a difficult baby and postnatal depression was fully mediated by maternal-specific dysfunctional cognitions (MAQ scores), whereas the relationship between past history of depression and postnatal depression was partially mediated by general dysfunctional cognitions (DAS scores). Finally, the relationship between a vulnerable personality and depressive symptomatology was mediated by both DAS and MAQ scores.
Limitations: The study employed a correlational design. Thus, all inferences regarding possible causal pathways are tentative. In addition, the generalisability of these findings to other populations needs to be demonstrated in future research.
Conclusions: The results of the study are consistent with the view that risk factors may influence postnatal depression indirectly through at least two distinct cognitive mediators (dysfunctional maternal and general cognitions). It may be possible to target therapies more effectively by identifying the relevant mediating mechanism(s) for individuals with different risk profiles.