Sense of control predicts depressive and anxious symptoms across the transition to parenthood

J Fam Psychol. 2008 Apr;22(2):212-21. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.22.2.212.


In this study, the authors examined the relationship between sense of control and depressive and anxious symptoms for mothers and fathers during the 1st year of parenthood. Participants were 153 dual-earner, working-class couples who were recruited during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy at prenatal education courses. Data were collected 1 month antenatally and 1, 4, 6, and 12 months postnatally. Sense of control was decomposed into 2 distinct parts: an enduring component and a malleable component that changes with context. Consistent with a cognitive theory of emotional problems, results demonstrated that a sense of control served a protective function for mental health outcomes. A higher sense of enduring control predicted lower levels of psychological distress for new parents, and increases in control over time predicted decreases in depression and anxiety. Findings hold implications for interventions with expectant parents, such as expanding prenatal education courses to include strategies for enhancing and maintaining a sense of personal control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Perception*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology