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Loss of group memberships predicts depression in postpartum mothers



The postpartum period presents the highest risk for women’s mental health throughout the lifespan. We aimed to examine the Social Identity Model of Identity Change in this context. More specifically, we investigated changes in social identity during this life transition and their consequences for women’s postpartum mental health.


Women who had given birth within the last 12 months (N = 387) reported on measures of depression, social group memberships, and motherhood identification.


Analyses indicated that a decrease in group memberships after having a baby, controlling for group memberships prior to birth, was associated with an increase in depressive symptomology. However, maintaining pre-existing group memberships was predictive of better mental health. New group memberships were not associated with depressive symptomology. Identification as a mother was a strong positive predictor of mental health in the postpartum period.


The social identity model of identity change provides a useful framework for understanding postpartum depression. Interventions to prevent and treat postpartum depression might aim to support women in maintaining important social group networks throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period.

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Work on this paper was supported by a grant from the Australian Research Council (FL110100199).

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Correspondence to Tegan Cruwys.

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Ethical approval was provided by the University of Queensland within the guidelines of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research.

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Seymour-Smith, M., Cruwys, T., Haslam, S.A. et al. Loss of group memberships predicts depression in postpartum mothers. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 52, 201–210 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-016-1315-3

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  • Social identity
  • Group memberships
  • Identity continuity
  • Postpartum depression
  • Maternal health