Turning the pink cloud grey: dampening of positive affect predicts postpartum depressive symptoms

J Psychosom Res. 2014 Jul;77(1):64-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2014.04.003. Epub 2014 Apr 24.


Objective: Maladaptive response styles to negative affect have been shown to be associated with prospective (postpartum) depression. Whether maladaptive styles to positive affect are also critically involved is understudied, even though anhedonia (a correlate of low positive affectivity) is a cardinal symptom of depression. The present study is the first to investigate the predictive value of cognitive response styles to both negative (depressive rumination) and positive affect (dampening) for postpartum depressive symptoms.

Methods: During the third trimester of pregnancy, 210 women completed self-report instruments assessing depression (symptom severity and current and/or past episodes) and scales gauging the presence of depressive rumination and dampening. Of these women, 187 were retained for postpartum follow-up, with depressive symptoms being reassessed at 12 (n=171) and 24 (n=176) weeks after delivery.

Results: Regression analyses showed that higher levels of dampening of positive affect during pregnancy predicted higher levels of depressive symptoms at 12 and 24 weeks postpartum, irrespective of initial symptom severity, past history of depression and levels of rumination to negative affect. Prepartum trait levels of rumination, however, did not predict postpartum symptomatology when controlled for baseline symptoms and history of major depressive episode(s).

Conclusions: The results of this investigation suggest that the way women cognitively respond to positive affect contributes perhaps even more to the development of postpartum depression than maladaptive response styles to negative affect.

Keywords: Anhedonia; Dampening; Depression; Positive affect; Postpartum depression; Rumination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Anhedonia
  • Cognition
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Report
  • Thinking
  • Young Adult