Young First-Time Mothers’ Parenting of Infants: The Role of Depression and Social Support

Helen Y. Lee*, Renee C. Edwards, Sydney L. Hans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study examines the contributions of social support and depressive symptoms on sensitive parenting behaviors, parenting attitudes and parenting stress among first-time young mothers. Additionally, the study tests the moderating role of depression in associations between various types and sources of social support and parenting outcomes. Methods: Young (M = 17.4 years), low-income, African American mothers (n = 192) were interviewed and video-recorded interacting with their 4-month-old infants. Results: Regression analyses showed that depressive symptoms (CES-D) were associated with less sensitivity observed during mother–infant interactions, less sensitive attitudes (AAPI) and greater parenting stress (PSI), but the role of social support was more nuanced. Direct infant care support from the mother’s parent figure (typically her own mother) was related to more sensitive parenting behaviors and attitudes, while general support and direct infant care support from the father of the baby were related to reduced parenting stress. Depressive symptoms moderated the relationship between general support from the parent figure and parenting outcomes. Specifically, higher levels of general support contributed to more sensitive maternal behaviors and attitudes only when depressive symptoms were low. Conclusions for Practice: For young mothers, their parent figure and the father of the baby can be important sources of support in promoting positive parenting and reducing parenting stress. Young mothers with depression, however, are at risk for problematic parenting and may have difficulty taking advantage of the support offered by their parent figure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-586
Number of pages12
JournalMaternal and child health journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Adolescent mothers
  • Maternal depression
  • Maternal sensitivity
  • Parenting stress
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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