215 research outputs found

    A Close and Supportive Interparental Bond During Pregnancy Predicts Greater Decline in Sexual Activity From Pregnancy to Postpartum: Applying an Evolutionary Perspective

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    A common topic for advice given to parents after childbirth – both from relationship experts and popular media – is how to “bounce back” to one’s pre-pregnancy sexuality, with warnings that postpartum declines in sexual frequency will take a serious toll on one’s relationship. However, these admonishments may not accurately reflect the ways in which the unique reproductive context of pregnancy and the postpartum transition alter associations between sexual frequency and relationship quality. Evolutionary perspectives on reproductive strategies would suggest that in the postpartum context, decreased sexual activity would help target parental investment in the current offspring (rather than creating new offspring); however, if the parental relationship is lacking in intimacy and support, continued sexual activity may help seal the cracks in the bond. We tested this theory in a longitudinal dyadic study of changes in relationship quality and sexual frequency from pregnancy to 6 months postpartum among 159 heterosexual couples. We found that across three different measures of relationship quality taken from interviews and behavioral observation of couple interactions, higher relationship quality (i.e., greater support, intimacy, and responsiveness) predicted greater decline in sexual frequency whereas sexual frequency remained relatively stable in lower quality relationships. These findings suggest that, during the postpartum transition, decreased sexual frequency may not be a reliable signal of poor relationship quality

    Social connectedness and negative affect uniquely explain individual differences in response to emotional ambiguity

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    Negativity bias is not only central to mood and anxiety disorders, but can powerfully impact our decision-making across domains (e.g., financial, medical, social). This project builds on previous work examining negativity bias using dual-valence ambiguity. Specifically, although some facial expressions have a relatively clear negative (angry) or positive valence (happy), surprised expressions are interpreted negatively by some and positively by others, providing insight into one’s valence bias. Here, we examine putative sources of variability that distinguish individuals with a more negative versus positive valence bias using structural equation modeling. Our model reveals that one’s propensity toward negativity (operationalized as temperamental negative affect and internalizing symptomology) predicts valence bias particularly in older adulthood when a more positive bias is generally expected. Further, variability in social connectedness (a propensity to seek out social connections, use those connections to regulate one’s own emotions, and be empathic) emerges as a notable and unique predictor of valence bias, likely because these traits help to override an initial, default negativity. We argue that this task represents an important approach to examining variability in affective bias, and can be specifically useful across the lifespan and in populations with internalizing disorders or even subclinical symptomology

    Posttraumatic Stress and Parenting Behaviors: The Mediating Role of Emotion Regulation

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    Maternal trauma has been linked with problematic parenting, including both harsh and permissive behaviors. However, little is known about mechanisms accounting for this association. The current study examined the potential impact of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and emotion regulation on dysfunctional parenting behaviors in a sample of community mothers. We hypothesized a mediation model wherein PTSD would be associated with dysfunctional parenting (i.e., lax and overreactive behaviors) indirectly through deficits in maternal emotion regulation. Seventy-eight community mothers of 18- to 36-month-old children were administered the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5) and 19 mothers met criteria for PTSD. Mothers also completed self-report measures of difficulties with emotion regulation and maternal laxness and overreactivity in parenting. Results revealed that emotion dysregulation fully mediated relations between PTSD status and lax (but not overreactive) parenting behaviors. Compared to mothers without PTSD, those with PTSD reported greater lax parenting behaviors indirectly through greater emotion dysregulation. Mothers with PTSD may struggle to parent assertively when trauma symptoms interfere with emotion regulation abilities. The current study highlights the need to design interventions focused on helping trauma-exposed mothers manage distress, ultimately aiming to enhance parenting effectiveness and improve child outcomes

    Attachment anxiety and avoidance predict postnatal partner support through impaired affective communication

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    Objective: The purpose of the present study was to investigate perceived difficulties in affective communication as a key mechanism linking attachment anxiety and avoidance during pregnancy to the quality of postpartum support received by partners. Background: During the postpartum period, partner support has the potential to promote family well-being by mitigating stress related to changes experienced during this transition. Attachment security is one of the most robust predictors of intimate relationship processes and impacts partner communication and support dynamics. Method: Heterosexual couples (N = 159) completed surveys and semi-structured interviews to obtain measures of attachment security, perceived difficulties in affective communication, and quality of partner support quality during pregnancy. At 6 months postpartum, partners completed interviews to assess the quality of partner support received since childbirth. Results: Greater attachment anxiety and avoidance predicted greater impairments in affective communication for men and women. Paternal difficulties with affective communication predicted the quality of support received by both mothers and fathers during the 6 months following childbirth controlling for prenatal support. The effects of attachment anxiety and avoidance on postpartum support were mediated by paternal perceptions of poor affective communication. Conclusion: Findings demonstrate the utility of attachment theory for understanding adaptive and maladaptive prenatal couple dynamics and examining both parents in research on heterosexual couples navigating the pregnancy-postpartum transition. Results identify deficits in prenatal affective communication as a key factor explaining the link between attachment insecurity and postpartum partner support, warranting closer attention in interventions

    An Integrated Relational Framework of Depressed Mood and Anhedonia During Pregnancy

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    Objective: The aim of the present study was to test a unified framework that integrates several theories into a cohesive model to explain the interplay between neuroticism and intimate relationship quality as risk factors for prenatal depression. Background: There is a notable spike in risk for depression during pregnancy, and the processes unfolding in the interparental relationship during this important time in the family life cycle might serve to mitigate or enhance this risk. Yet there is a need for theory-driven research integrating multiple conceptual frameworks to explicate the role of intimate relationship quality in depression. Method: In a sample of 154 pregnant, cohabiting couples, multiple domains of intimate relationship quality were assessed using a semistructured clinical interview. An ecologically valid assessment of core depressive features was implemented, such that daily reports of depressed mood and anhedonia captured the pervasiveness of those symptoms for 2 weeks. Results: The hypothesized, integrated model was supported for the following two dimensions of intimate relationship quality: conflict management for women and partner support for men. Neuroticism predicted depressive symptoms indirectly through poorer relationship quality and interacted with poorer relationship quality to influence depressive symptoms. In addition, poor sexual quality predicted paternal depressive symptoms, and this effect intensified at higher levels of neuroticism; however, neuroticism did not predict sexual quality. Conclusions: This integrated approach to studying risk for depression has implications for future research and clinical practice, particularly for clinicians working with pregnant couples when one or both partners are experiencing symptoms of depression

    Self-Compassion Mediates the Link Between Attachment Security and Intimate Relationship Quality for Couples Navigating Pregnancy

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    Millions of couples navigate the transition from pregnancy to postpartum in a given year, and this period of change and adjustment in the family is associated with elevated risk for intimate relationship dysfunction. Self-compassion has the potential to promote skills that are essential for healthy adaptation (e.g., emotion regulation, greater openness and flexibility, more awareness of the needs of oneself and one’s partner). The overarching goal of the present study was to investigate the role of self-compassion in intimate relationship quality during pregnancy. A sample of 159 couples completed semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. Parents engaging in more compassionate self-responding during pregnancy had higher quality intimate relationships as measured across multiple facets – the degree of emotional intimacy and closeness in the relationship, adaptive conflict management and resolution, high quality support in response to stress, and a high degree of respect and acceptance directed toward each other. Further, compassionate self-responding emerged as a mediator of the link between attachment security and intimate relationship quality. Specifically, mothers who were higher in attachment anxiety reported lower levels of compassionate self-responding which, in turn, undermined multiple dimensions of the intimate relationship. Further, fathers who were higher in attachment avoidance practiced less self-compassion, which had deleterious consequences for the couple. These results provide implications that can inform conceptual frameworks of intimate relationship quality and clinical implications for interventions targeting the transition into parenthood

    Partner Support and Connection Protect Couples during Pregnancy: A Daily Diary Investigation

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    Objective: The objective of the current study was to examine associations between daily subjective stress and relationship satisfaction as a function of two protective factors—partner support and connection (i.e., intimacy, passion, and commitment)—among couples during pregnancy. Background: Stress brought into the intimate relationship by each partner is often associated with relational dissatisfaction and discord, referred to as stress spillover. Although much research has focused on risk for poor relational outcomes associated with partner stress, it is equally important to focus on resilience. Method: We examined this phenomenon among 154 couples navigating pregnancy. Couples attended an initial laboratory session and then completed daily diary measures from home across 14 days. Results: Multilevel modeling techniques revealed that higher daily subjective stress than usual was negatively associated with relationship satisfaction that day for fathers and mothers, and partner support and connection attenuated this link to a significant degree. As these protective factors increased, the strength of the negative association between daily stress and relationship satisfaction decreased for both parents. Exploratory analyses showed no significant within-person associations between daily stress and next-day relationship satisfaction at any level of support or connection. Conclusion: These findings add innovative components to the investigation of the spillover process, including the examination of this process among couples during pregnancy, utilization of daily diary methods to study this phenomenon on a micro-level over time, and identification of protective factors mitigating daily stress spillover

    Peer coach support in internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy for college students with social anxiety disorder: efficacy and acceptability

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    Social anxiety disorder is common among emerging adults and is associated with serious functional impairment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective intervention for social anxiety. An online version may increase access but low completion rates limit utility. This study investigated a self-guided, internet based CBT (ICBT) with peer coach support. Participants were 35 undergraduate students randomized for immediate treatment (IT) or wait-list control (WL) in a randomized controlled trial design. IT participants completed a six-week ICBT program on their own and met briefly with a minimally trained undergraduate student as a “coach” between each lesson. IT participants had a greater decline in social anxiety relative to WL participants. High treatment retention and satisfaction ratings demonstrate the acceptability of this online intervention with peer coach support. The higher than expected enrollment from international students suggests ICBT may serve hard-to-reach college populations. This model of care could augment traditional mental health services to expand the availability of care

    Objectification in Heterosexual Romantic Relationships: Examining Relationship Satisfaction of Female Objectification Recipients and Male Objectifying Perpetrators

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    Sexual objectification is one of most the common manifestations of discrimination against women in Western societies; however, few studies have examined objectification in the context of romantic relationships. The primary aim of the present research was to bring the study of objectification phenomena into the setting of heterosexual romantic relationships. The present set of studies examined the relation between sexual objectification and relationship satisfaction for both the sexual objectification recipient (Study 1) and the sexual objectification perpetrator (Study 2). The results of the first study with 206 U.S. undergraduate female students in committed romantic relationships replicated a previously identified negative association between feeling dehumanized by one’s partner and intimate relationship satisfaction. Moreover, this link was mediated by greater body dissatisfaction and decreased sexual satisfaction. The second study with 94 U.S. undergraduate male students in committed romantic relationships demonstrated a negative association between sexual objectification perpetration and relationship satisfaction. Furthermore, this negative relation was mediated by greater partner objectification and lower sexual satisfaction. Results of both studies demonstrated the effect of sexual objectification (as recipient or perpetrator) on global intimate relationship health. Additionally, the results highlight poor sexual satisfaction as a key dyadic mechanism linking objectification processes to intimate relationship outcomes

    Collaborative decision making improves interpersonal psychotherapy efficiency: A randomized clinical trial with postpartum women

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    Background: Randomized controlled trials of Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) and other psychotherapies for depression have required strict adherence to protocol and do not allow for clinical judgment in deciding frequency of sessions. To determine if such protocols were more effective than allowing therapists to use their clinical judgment, we compared “Clinician- Managed” IPT (CM-IPT), in which clinicians and patients with postpartum depression were allotted 12 sessions and determined collaboratively when to use them, to a once weekly 12 session protocol (“Standard IPT”). We hypothesized that CM-IPT would be more efficient, requiring fewer sessions to reach an equivalent acute outcome, and that CM-IPT would be superior over 12 months because “saved” sessions could be used for maintenance treatment. Method: We conducted a clinical trial including 140 postpartum outpatients with DSM-IV major depression who were randomly assigned to “Standard” IPT (N= 69) or CM-IPT (N= 71). Results: Both CM-IPT and S-IPT were highly efficacious with similar outcomes by 12 weeks but CM-IPT group utilized significantly fewer sessions. Both were superior to a waitlist control. Superiority comparisons at 12 months did not favor the CM-IPT condition. Limitations: Results should be replicated in a more diverse sample to increase generalizability. Conclusions: CM-IPT is more efficient in treating acute depression than mandated weekly IPT. Further, permitting clinicians and patients to use their collaborative judgment is likely to be a more efficient and effective way to conduct future research and to implement evidence-based psychotherapy in the community
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