Assessing the Impact of Mindfulness and Life Stress on Maternal Well-Being
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Dispositional mindfulness has been shown to protect against affective symptoms in the general population. However, little is known about whether and how these benefits may extend to a particularly high-risk period for affective distress—early parenthood. In this study, we tested within-person and between-person associations between maternal mindfulness and symptoms of anxiety and depression across the first 18 months postnatal. We further investigated whether mindfulness moderated the effect of life stress on mothers’ symptoms. Participants were 89 mothers aged 18–44 years (M = 27.01, SD = 5.39) from a larger longitudinal study on mother-infant stress regulation. Mothers completed measures of dispositional mindfulness, life stress, anxiety, and depression at 3, 6, 12, and 18 months postnatal. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to assess the associations between mindfulness and life stress and symptoms of both anxiety and depression over time. Absolute levels of maternal mindfulness predicted lower maternal depressive symptoms at 18 months (β = − 314, SE = .123, p = .013), and relative increases in mindfulness predicted concurrent decreases in anxiety (β = − .251, SE = .076, p = .002) and depressive symptoms (β = − .464, SE = .088, p < .001) across time points. There was no evidence for moderated effects; rather, life stress related independently to overall levels of anxiety (β = .495, SE = .170, p = .005) and depression (β = .341, SE = .147, p = .023) at 18 months. Implications for understanding mindfulness as a dynamic construct and potential applications to improving perinatal mental health are discussed.
KeywordsDispositional mindfulness Life stress Mother Anxiety Depression
FK: Designed the study questions addressed in this manuscript, analyzed the data, and wrote the manuscript. HL: Designed and executed the larger study from which the data for the present study were drawn, assisted with data analysis, and edited the manuscript.
This research was supported by the Society for Research in Child Development Victoria Levin Award.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
The research study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Oregon prior to participant recruitment.
Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study prior to participation.
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