Bidirectional relationships between stress communication and psychological distress in couples during the transition to parenthood


  • S. Alves
  • A. Fonseca
  • M.C. Canavarro
  • M. Pereira


Background: A significant association between a more effective dyadic communication and lower perinatal psychological distress among women has been observed. However, longitudinal research examining the causal relations between these variables, in both women and their partners, is lacking. The aim of this study was to examine the bidirectional actor and partner effects between stress communication and depressive and anxiety symptoms during the transition to parenthood. Methods: 105 couples completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Dyadic Coping Inventory, during the second trimester of pregnancy (T0) and at 6 weeks postpartum (T1). Repeated-measures MANOVAs and multiple linear regressions were performed. Findings: Findings revealed that: (1) women’s depressive symptoms at T1 were negatively predicted by men’s own stress communication at T0 (p < .05), and positively predicted by men’s perception of women’s stress communication (p < .05); and (2) men’s anxiety symptoms at T0 negatively predicted women’s own stress communication at T1 (p < .05) as well as men’s perception of women’s stress communication (p < .05). Discussion: Men’s adequate expression of needs may act as a resource against women’s postpartum psychological distress, but better women’s stress communication (as perceived by men) may also be related to higher depressive symptoms, possibly due to men’s inability in responding adequately to their needs. Moreover, men’s previous psychological distress compromised subsequent stress communication in women. Considering the reciprocal influences within the dyad, improving stress communication in both members (and effective subsequent coping responses) should be considered.





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