In her shoes: Partner reflective functioning promotes family-level resilience to maternal depression

Alison Goldstein, Jessica L. Borelli, Dana Shai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parental depression has significant implications for family functioning, yet much of the literature does not consider family-level dynamics in investigating individual, parenting and child outcomes. In the current study we apply a new index of couple-level support, partner reflective functioning (RF), or the romantic partner's ability to consider how the partner's mental states can guide behavior, to study familial resiliency in the face of prenatal parental depression among first-time parents. We investigate how partner RF buffers the association between prenatal parental depression and outcomes of postnatal parental depression, parenting style, and child effortful control. Maternal and paternal depression were measured in 91 primiparous couples during the sixth month of pregnancy and parental depression, partner RF, parental RF at 6 months postnatally. Outcomes of parental depression, permissive parenting, and children's effortful control were assessed 24 months postnatally. Results indicate that average and high levels of paternal partner (not parental) RF attenuate risk for maternal postnatal depression, maternal permissive parenting, and deficits in child effortful control. Implications are discussed from a family systems approach.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • Child
  • Depression
  • Depression, Postpartum
  • Fathers
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parenting
  • Parents
  • Pregnancy


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