ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, AND HOSTILITY IN PRIMIPAROUS FATHERS AS A FUNCTION OF CHILDBIRTH EXPERIENCE

NICHOLAS GERALD LAROCCA, Fordham University

Abstract

Childbirth has been described as an important period for the development of the maternal role. Similarly, the father's psychological reactions to childbirth might influence his growth into fatherhood. Fathers, however, have received less attention than mothers in the literature. Research has suggested that parturition is an event of great psychological significance for men. The father's reactions to childbirth are reportedly more positive if he becomes more actively involved in the process. Previous studies, though, have often employed unstandardized assessment procedures and have usually examined very few features of the father's experience.^ The objectives of the present research were to evaluate some of the psychological effects of childbirth on first-time fathers and to determine in what ways differences in (1) the father's level of participation and in (2) childbirth complications were associated with differences in reactions to the birth experience. It was hypothesized that for all fathers, relatively more positive reactions would be associated with prenatal training, attendance at the delivery, early and extensive contact with the baby, a less complicated delivery, a shorter labor, and a wife who was relatively more conscious during delivery. In addition, for fathers whose wives had cesareans, it was further hypothesized that relatively more positive reactions would be associated with prenatal training which dealt with cesareans and with greater advanced warning that a cesarean would be performed.^ Subjects were 110 primiparous fathers of full term, singleton infants recruited from the maternity ward of Nassau Hospital in Mineola, New York. Ages ranged from 20 to 42 with a mean of 29. The sample was predominantly white (94%), American born (90%), and well educated (58% completed college). Most of the fathers had prenatal training (90%) and attended the delivery (79%). One-third of the births were by cesarean section.^ Fathers' reactions to the birth were assessed using the anxiety, depression, and hostility scales of the Multiple Affect Adjective Check List (MAACL). Participation and extent of complications were assessed through a Postpartum Questionnaire (PPQ) designed for the study. Within 48 hours of the birth fathers were asked to complete the MAACL four times in order to describe: (1) how they generally felt; (2) how they felt during labor; (3) how they felt during delivery; and (4) how they felt postpartum. The PPQ was administered after the MAACL's.^ Results indicated that father's postpartum anxiety, depression, and hostility did not differ from their general levels of these affects. However, anxiety, depression, and hostility during birth were higher than either postpartum or general levels. In addition, anxiety and depression during delivery were higher than during labor.^ Prenatal training was associated with lower depression (during delivery). Father attendance at delivery was associated with lower anxiety and depression (during both labor and delivery) and with lower hostility (during delivery). Earlier father-infant contact was associated with lower depression (during labor). A less complicated delivery was associated with lower anxiety and depression (during delivery). A relatively more conscious wife was associated with lower anxiety and depression (during both labor and delivery). None of the other predictions were supported.^ More positive reactions were associated with greater participation and fewer complications. Moreover, in complicated births, paternal participation was lower. When a high level of participation accompanied complications, the father's reactions were more positive than when participation was curtailed. The results suggest that opportunity for husband-wife interaction may be one of the most significant determinants of paternal reactions. ^

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

LAROCCA, NICHOLAS GERALD, "ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, AND HOSTILITY IN PRIMIPAROUS FATHERS AS A FUNCTION OF CHILDBIRTH EXPERIENCE" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8123555.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8123555

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