Actor and partner effects of prenatal coparenting behavior on postpartum depression in first-time parents

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Postpartum depression (PPD) is a common mental health complication of pregnancy and childbirth with long- and short-term consequences for the wellbeing and the functioning of parents. In particular, first-time parents seem to be at high risk for developing post-birth depressive symptoms as the transition to parenthood elevates stress and demands adjustment to significant changes. Prior research has mostly documented individual characteristics, such as prenatal depression and psychiatric history, as predictors of PPD, but much less is known about the potential contribution of interpersonal processes within relational contexts, such as the coparenting relationship, to PPD among first-time mothers and fathers. With evidence suggesting that coparenting dynamics start developing prior to the birth, it is imperative to consider characteristics of coparenting interaction behaviors as early as during pregnancy to identify such behaviors as risk or protective factors for PPD. In the current study, we explored one’s own (actor) and partner’s observed prenatal coparenting behaviors as predictors of mothers' and fathers' PPD. A mixed-method longitudinal study with 107 expectant couples provided both partners' self-report measures and observational data from interaction tasks prenatally, and at 3 and 6 months post-birth. APIM multilevel model analyses revealed that both negative (i.e., withdrawal and conflict) and positive (i.e., communication skills, support, and problem solving attempts) prenatal coparenting behaviors were uniquely predictive of PPD among first-time parents above and beyond other potential predictors of PPD, although several similarities and dissimilarities among fathers and mothers were detected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3540-3562
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • coparenting
  • postpartum depression
  • prenatal
  • transition to parenthood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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