Gender roles, social support, and postpartum depressive symptomatology. The benefits of caring

J Nerv Ment Dis. 1991 Mar;179(3):139-47. doi: 10.1097/00005053-199103000-00005.


Although women are assumed to be particularly vulnerable to depressive symptomatology after childbirth, the extent to which this symptomatology predominates over that found in men at this life cycle stage has not been addressed. This study examined gender differences in postpartum depressive symptomatology and the link between postpartum symptomatology and gender roles and relationships in a sample obtained from childbirth preparation classes. The data show no gender difference in depressive symptomatology at 2 months after childbirth. Women manifested a decrease in depressive symptomatology and men showed a slight increase from the preparenthood point. We partially link women's equivalent rather than higher distress levels to the protective effects of their varied social supports. By contrast, men depended primarily on their spouses, but both genders experienced a decrease in spouse support after childbirth. Female lack of support was more strongly associated with symptomatology in homemakers compared with employed women or women on maternity leave. Within the context of gender role changes, the data highlight benefits of female bonding in contrast to the "costs of caring" depicted by other researchers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Infant Care
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Marriage
  • Object Attachment
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care
  • Puerperal Disorders / diagnosis
  • Puerperal Disorders / epidemiology
  • Puerperal Disorders / psychology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support*