Stress, psychological distress and social support during pregnancy : a comparison of first-time expectant parents
This research thesis was based upon an exploratory study that investigated the relationships between stress, psychological distress and social support in a sample of pregnant women and their partners. The study was particularly interested in the exploration of gender differences in reported stress and distress, and the provision of new information about fathers' experiences during pregnancy. Specific hypotheses were proposed which predicted gender differences in reported levels of stress, psychological distress and linear relationships between stress, psychological distress, and social support. Thirty-eight female and twenty-nine male participants expecting their first baby took part in the study during the third trimester of pregnancy The sample was recruited from Parentcraft Groups held at the Leicester General Hospital. Participants completed a booklet of self-report measures on one occasion. Independent T Tests were undertaken to identify any gender differences. Relationships between variables were examined using bivariate correlations. The relative power of variables as predictors of psychological distress was examined using regression analysis. Significant gender differences were found with females reporting higher levels of stress, psychological distress and depression than males. Significant positive relationships were found between stress and psychological distress. No significant relationships were found between social support and stress or social support and psychological distress. Significant negative relationships were found between satisfaction with partner relationships and psychological distress. No significant gender differences in social support were identified. Stress and satisfaction with the partner relationship were the strongest predictors of psychological distress, whilst stress and the quality of social support were the strongest predictors of depression. Clinical implications were proposed in light of the findings. Sample, measurement and design limitations of the study were identified. Directions for future research were presented. For the majority of expectant parents, pregnancy was a time of good psychological adjustment. However, for a minority of expectant mothers and fathers, clinically significant levels of stress, psychological distress and depression were present during pregnancy. It is important that future service provision considers the needs of expectant mothers and fathers during pregnancy in addition to the postpartum period.