Economic Stress, Social Support, and Maternal Depression: Is Social Support Deterioration Occurring?

Maternal depression in low-income women is a significant problem because of its negative consequences for both mothers and their children. Economic stress increases risk for depression; however, mechanisms linking economic stress and depression are not well understood. The social support deterioration model suggests that chronic stressors can exert effects on psychological well-being directly and, also, indirectly when stressors undermine social support. The analysis presented in this article tested the relationships suggested by the social support deterioration model by examining the direct and indirect links among economic stress, social support, and depressive symptoms in a sample of 336 mothers with children in mental health care. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the hypothesized paths depicted by this model and the relevant demographic variables. Economic stress was associated with depressive symptoms and appeared to exert part of its influence by reducing social support. Future research should consider social support and economic stress as potential targets for prevention of and intervention regarding maternal depression. KEY WORDS: economic stress; maternal depression; mental health; social support; socioeconomic status.

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