Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology

First Advisor

Angela J. Narayan

Second Advisor

Erika Manczak

Third Advisor

Elysia P. Davis

Fourth Advisor

Michelle Rozenman

Fifth Advisor

Jenn Bellamy


Perinatal mental health, Childhood experience, Stress, Depression, Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)


Despite a growing body of research on childhood risk and promotive factors for perinatal mental health, as well as extensive research on adulthood risk and promotive factors for these problems, little research considers childhood and adulthood experiences alongside one another. The current study addressed this gap by examining childhood experiences, both adverse and benevolent, alongside contemporaneous sociodemographic stress and social support as predictors of depression and PTSD symptoms during pregnancy and at 3-4 months postnatal.

Participants were 175 ethnically-diverse women (M = 28.07 years, SD = 5.68, range = 18-40; 38.9% White, 25.7% Latina, 16.6% Black, 12.0% biracial/multiracial, 6.8% other) who completed study assessments during pregnancy and when their babies were three-to-four months old. During pregnancy, all participants completed the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) scale (Felitti et al., 1998; CDC, 2020) for childhood maltreatment and exposure to family dysfunction and the Benevolent Childhood Experiences (BCEs) scale (Narayan et al., 2018) for positive childhood experiences. They also reported on their sociodemographic stress including having less than a high school education (or equivalent; 19.4%), being currently unemployed (52.6%), and living below the federal poverty line (42.3%) and completed the Five-Minute Speech Sample (FMSS; Magaña et al., 1986), adapted to assess social support from the baby’s biological father. Finally, all pregnant women completed measures of depression and PTSD symptoms. Women completed the FMSS and measures of depression and PTSD symptoms a second time at the postnatal visit.

Results demonstrated that higher levels of family dysfunction were associated with lower levels of prenatal depression and higher levels of BCEs and contemporaneous prenatal social support were both significantly associated with lower levels of prenatal PTSD symptoms. Both prenatal depression and prenatal PTSD symptoms were the most robust predictors of postnatal depression and PTSD symptoms, respectively, although higher contemporaneous postnatal social support also predicted lower postnatal PTSD (but not depression) symptoms. Findings support both childhood and contemporaneous experiences as predictors of women’s mental health symptoms throughout the perinatal period and demonstrate the unique ways in which experiences beginning in childhood and continuing into adulthood affect women’s mental health during pregnancy and after the baby is born.

Copyright Date


Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Jillian S. Merrick


Received from ProQuest

File Format



English (eng)


63 pgs

File Size

487 KB


Clinical psychology

Available for download on Friday, September 12, 2025