Parental Stress in Mothers and Fathers One Year After Birth

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Objective: The aim was to compare prenatal feelings and parental stress in parents one year after birth. An additional aim was to study associations between parental stress and several explanatory factors in mothers and fathers. Background: The birth of a baby brings many changes to the lives of parents and families. Existing research on gender differences in parental stress levels is somewhat inconclusive. Method: A longitudinal Swedish survey of a one-year cohort of 783 women and 671 male partners recruited in mid pregnancy and followed up one year after birth. Data were collected using three questionnaires where different aspects of stress arising from the parenting role measured by the Swedish Parental Stress Questionnaire (SPSQ) were investigated. Results: Women and men differed in age and level of education. Women had more negative feelings towards pregnancy, birth and the early parenthood compared to men. Women reported higher levels of parental stress than men in three out of five subscales in the SPSQ (Role Restriction, Social Isolation and Spouse Relationship). The subscales were moderately correlated with background variables but strongly correlated with prenatal feelings. Prenatal negative feelings about the pregnancy, the upcoming birth and the first weeks with a newborn baby were strongly correlated with parental stress for both mothers and fathers. Conclusion: Assessing parents’ feelings and prenatal attitudes is important for understanding parental stress one year after birth. Health care providers should discuss these issues with both parents during pregnancy in order to help them cope with the normal stresses of parenting.


Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology





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