, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 245-253
Date: 21 Jan 2009

Functional Interpretations of Sadness, Stress and Demoralization among an Urban Population of Low-Income Mothers

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Objectives We sought to understand how low-income urban mothers explain feelings of sadness, stress or demoralization in the context of their life experiences. Methods 28 in-depth qualitative interviews, constituting part of a community-based participatory research (CBPR) project aimed at developing a culturally relevant, community-based intervention for maternal depression. Qualitative data validity was ensured through investigator and expert triangulation, and through member checking. Results The following themes emerged: (1) Informants spoke of wanting reprieves from chaos, and discussed this desire relative to wanting to be alone. By contrast, informants expressed loneliness not only in interpersonal terms, but also related to having problems that precluded future relationships, or feeling unique in experiencing an adversity. (2) Informants spoke of demoralization associated with feeling that their problems were externally imposed and therefore beyond their control, but spoke of empowerment associated with owning one’s problems. (3) Informants discussed degrees of sadness in relation to their own abilities to adjust or modify their mood, or their ability to contain their feelings. Conclusions Our data suggest that helping a mother find reprieves from chaos, increasing her perception of her own locus of control around externally imposed adversities, and empowering her to recognize and self-manage her own feelings may constitute important elements of a culturally relevant, community-based intervention for depression.

Joel and Barbara Alpert Endowment, National Institute of Mental Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and The Hood Foundation.