Postnatal mental health and parenting: The importance of parental anger

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Parfitt, Y. ; Ayers, S. (2012)

Parents' postnatal mental health and subjective perceptions of their baby are likely to influence the quality of their relationship with their baby. To date, this has largely been examined in mothers; therefore, this study aimed to also explore this in both parents. Semistructured clinical interviews [The Birmingham Interview for Maternal Mental Health (BIMMH); Brockingon, Chandra et al., 2006] were carried out with 85 first-time parents. The BMMHI identifies disorders of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and parental anger. Sections of the BMMHI also elicit qualitative accounts of parenthood. These were transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis. Differences in the frequency of themes were examined for parents with or without mental health disorders or parental anger. Themes are reported for (a) baby characteristics, needs, and development; (b) parents' emotions, responses, coping strategies, and general parenthood; and (c) parent and baby relationship. Results indicated that both the presence of parental mental health problems and, more notably, parental anger were associated with more negative accounts of the self, the baby, and parenthood. This study provides insight into first-time parents' perceptions of early parenthood. Results especially highlight the need to consider parental experiences of anger in more detail for assessment and interventions in the early postpartum period.
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