How Depressive Symptoms among African American Women Relate to Measures of Social Disorder in Her Childhood and Pregnancy Neighborhood

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Pregnant African American women who report higher levels of social disorder (e.g., vacant housing, drug dealing) in their neighborhoods also report higher levels of depressive symptoms. The effects of social disorder in the neighborhood during childhood on depressive symptoms during pregnancy are not known. Also unknown is the interaction between social disorders in the neighborhood during childhood and during pregnancy regarding depressive symptoms during pregnancy. The purpose of this study was to examine whether higher levels of social disorder in the neighborhood during pregnancy buffered the association of social disorder in the neighborhood during childhood (at age 10 as reference) with depressive symptoms during pregnancy among African American women. We conducted a secondary data analysis of 1383 African American women from the Life-course Influences on Fetal Environments (LIFE) Study (Detroit, Michigan, 2009–2011). Women were interviewed in the hospital 24–72 h after the births. The Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale measured depressive symptoms. Scales measuring social disorder in the neighborhood both during childhood and during pregnancy were also included in the interviews. Women with CES-D scores ≥ 16 were younger, were more likely to be single, and had lower levels of education and household income compared with women with CES-D < 16. There was a significant association between women who report social disorder in their neighborhoods during childhood and depressive symptoms during pregnancy. This effect was moderated by measures of social disorder in the neighborhood during pregnancy (p = .037). Women who reported both low levels of social disorder in their neighborhoods during childhood and during pregnancy had the lowest CES-D scores after controlling for maternal age, marital status, years of education, and family income. The model had a good fit to the data (χ2(6) = 6.36, p = .38). Health care providers should inquire about neighborhood conditions during childhood and during pregnancy and provide referrals for appropriate professional and community support for women who report social disorder in their neighborhoods and depressive symptoms.

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The Life-course Influences on Fetal Environments (LIFE) Study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development R01 HD058510. This work was supported by the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers F31 NR018363 (PI: Nowak) and T32 NR014225 (MPI: Pickler and Melnyk). We thank the women who participated in the study.

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Correspondence to Alexandra L. Nowak.

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Nowak, A.L., Giurgescu, C., Templin, T.N. et al. How Depressive Symptoms among African American Women Relate to Measures of Social Disorder in Her Childhood and Pregnancy Neighborhood. J Urban Health (2020).

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  • Pregnancy
  • Neighborhood
  • Psychological distress
  • Depressive symptoms
  • African American