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Matern Child Health J. 2011 Nov;15(8):1272-81. doi: 10.1007/s10995-010-0668-6.

Violence and other stressful life events as triggers of depression and anxiety: what psychosocial resources protect African American mothers?

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Center for Clinical and Community Research, Children's National Medical Center, 111 Michigan Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20010, USA.


Understanding the risk and protective factors related to maternal mental health problems is important for improving the well-being of mothers and children, particularly in African American populations which may be at greater risk for maternal depression and resulting child behavior problems. This study explored whether three psychosocial resources--emotional resilience, social support, and ethnic identity--serve as protective factors in the face of specific stressful events that may trigger African American mothers' depression and anxiety symptoms. Standard self-report measures of depression, anxiety, negative life events, community violence, abuse, emotional resilience, social support, and ethnic identity were administered to African American mothers (N=209) of 2-18 month-old children. Linear regression models revealed main effects of negative life events and abuse on increased depression and anxiety symptoms, while emotional resilience and social support predicted decreased symptoms. There was also a significant interaction revealing a protective-reactive effect of ethnic identity on the associations of witnessed community violence with depression and anxiety symptoms. It is important for primary care providers to screen African American mothers for negative life events and abuse to identify those at increased risk for maternal depression and anxiety symptoms. Treatment programs should target emotional resilience, enhanced social support, and stronger ethnic group affiliation, which may be most effective at preventing mental health problems among mothers exposed to relative lower levels of community violence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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