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Introduction: Mothers of preterm infants are at high risk for postpartum depression and anxiety (i.e., postpartum emotional distress [PPED]). This risk is further increased for women from ethnic minority groups, such as the Bedouins, due to several stressors: low socioeconomic status, restricted access to health providers and facilities, language difficulties, and low levels of education. This is a cause for concern because extensive research indicates that mothers’ PPED has a strong effect on infants’ development. In this study, we investigated PPED among Bedouin Arab mothers, an ethnic minority group living in Israel. Our aim was to uncover risk and resilience processes. Specifically, we aimed to understand how maternal acculturation related to mothers’ PPED following a premature birth. Acculturation style includes two dimensions, traditionalism, which refers to the extent that the original cultural identity and characteristics are important and maintained and Western attitudes, which refer to the extent of involvement in the dominant cultural group (Berry, 1997).
Hypotheses: (a)Mothers of preterm infants will report higher levels of PPED than mothers of full-term infants; (b) Among the preterm group, maternal acculturation style will be associated with maternal levels of PPED. Specifically, mothers with higher levels of Westernized and lower levels of traditionalism acculturation style will experience lower levels of PPED.
Sample: Data were collected in the maternity ward and the NICU at Soroka Medical Center. Bedouin mothers and their preterm (n=66) and full-term(n=73) infants participated in this study.
Methods: Mothers completed a questionnaire on maternal postpartum depression using the Edinburg questionnaire (EPDS; Glasser &Barell, 1999) and on maternal level of anxiety using the STAI questionnaire (STAI; Spielberger et al., 1970). Additionally, maternal level of acculturation was assessed using the acculturation questionnaire (Berry, 1997; Phinney, 1990).
Results: As hypothesized, mothers of preterm infants had higher levels of PPED than mothers of full-term infants. Specifically, they indicated having more symptoms of anxiety [t(137)= -5.971, p< .001] and of depression[t(137 =- 3.352, p< .001].Additionally, as hypothesized, significant negative correlations were found between the level of maternal Western attitudes and maternal levels of depression (r=-0.46, p< .001) and anxiety (r=-0.456,p< .001). These correlations were non significant among the full-term group.Furthermore, no significant correlations were revealed between maternal traditionalism scale and PPED.
Conclusions:Ethnicity and acculturation are important variables that need to be considered when studying maternal emotional distress following the birth of a premature infant, especially in ethnic minority groups such as the Bedouin. Results support the notion that mothers from an ethnic minority group having a premature birth are at higher risk for experiencing depressive and anxiety symptoms due to their complicated circumstances. However, individual difference emerged when examining maternal acculturation style. It seems that among the premature group, the more Westernized acculturation stylemothers adopt (e.g., speak the Hebrew language, have Jewish-Israeli friends) the less maternal PPED mother experiences. Implications and intervention programs will be proposed.