Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 375–383 | Cite as

The Role of Social Networks and Support in Postpartum Women's Depression: A Multiethnic Urban Sample

  • Pamela J. Surkan
  • Karen E. Peterson
  • Michael D. Hughes
  • Barbara R. Gottlieb
Original Paper

Objectives: This study examined the relationship of social support, and of social networks, to symptoms of depression in a multiethnic sample of women having recently given birth. Methods: Women at community health centers in a Northeastern city were randomly sampled from groups stratified by race/ethnicity (African American, Hispanic, and White) and postpartum interval. Mother's score on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies of Depression Scale (CES-D) was the dependent variable. Main independent variables included the Medical Outcomes Study (MOS) Social Support Survey and a social network item. Univariate statistics assessed the relationship between CES-D score and each of the independent variables. Multivariate linear regression models included core sociodemographic variables alone, the core model with each of the social support and social network variables added separately, and all variables together. We evaluated interactions between race and social support, race and social networks, and social support and social networks. Results: The multivariate models with MOS Social Support and core variables indicated that each 10-point increase in the MOS Social Support Survey was related to a 2.1-unit lower score on the CES-D (95% CI −2.4, −1.7). The inclusion of the social network variable into the core model showed that having two or more friends or family members available was associated with a 13.6-point lower mean score on the CES-D (95% CI −17.5, −9.6), compared to women reporting none or only one available person. Conclusions: Both social support and social networks were statistically significant and independently related to depressive symptomatology.


postpartum depression social support social networks multiethnic sample. 



This study was supported by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCJ-259356). The authors express their appreciation to Dr. Marie McCormick, whose expertise guided this project from its inception. We also gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Rachel Levine and Cary Perry, who served as project coordinators and research associates, and Peter Gaccione for his contribution to data analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pamela J. Surkan
    • 1
    • 5
  • Karen E. Peterson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael D. Hughes
    • 3
  • Barbara R. Gottlieb
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of SocietyHuman Development and Health, Harvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of NutritionHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiostatisticsHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  4. 4.Division of General Medicine and Division of Women's HealthBrigham and Women's HospitalBostonUSA
  5. 5.Department of SocietyHuman Development and Health, Harvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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