Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 389-395

First online:

Global and relationship-specific perceptions of support and the development of postpartum depressive symptomatology

  • Cindy-Lee DennisAffiliated withFaculty of Nursing, University of Toronto Email author 
  • , Nicole LetourneauAffiliated withFaculty of Nursing, University of New Brunswick

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A lack of social support has consistently been demonstrated to be an important modifiable risk factor for postpartum depression. As such, a greater understanding of specific support variables may assist health professionals in the development of effective preventive interventions. The purpose of this paper was two-fold: (1) to determine if women discriminated between global and relationship-specific perceptions of support, and (2) to examine the influence of global and relationship-specific perceptions of support in the immediate postpartum period on the development of depressive symptomatology at 8 weeks postpartum.


As part of a longitudinal study, a diverse sample of 594 mothers completed questionnaires that included the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and global and relationship-specific (e.g., partner, mother, and other women with children) measures of support.


Mothers clearly discriminated between global and relationship-specific perceptions of support and those with depressive symptomatology at 8 weeks had significantly lower perceptions of both global and relationship-specific support at 1-week postpartum. Using discriminant function analysis, four variables, reliable reliance from partner, nurturance from partner, attachment to other women with children, and EPDS score at 1-week postpartum, differentiated between mothers who experienced depressive symptomatology at 8 weeks and those who did not.


Relationship-specific interventions may be beneficial if they include strategies that target a positive partner relationship through preceptions of reliable alliance and feeling needed and provide opportunites for interaction with other mothers. Maternal mood at 1 week postpartum was the largest predictor of depressive symptomatology at 8 weeks.

Key words

postpartum depression global support social support discriminant function analysis