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Social support is strongly implicated in the aetiology of perinatal mental disorder: particularly the quality of the marital and family environment. Family structures are important under-researched potential modifiers. Turkey offers particular advantages for research in this area because of long-standing coexistence of Western and Middle Eastern family structures. We aimed to investigate associations between the quality of key relationships and depression in women in their third trimester of pregnancy, and the extent to which these associations were modified by family structure.
Women attending antenatal clinics in their third trimester were recruited from urban and rural settings in Ankara. A nuclear family structure was defined as a wife and husband living alone or with their children in the same household, whereas a traditional/extended family structure was defined if another adult was living with the married couple in the same household. Depression was ascertained using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and social support was assessed by the Close Person Questionnaire with respect to the husband, mother and mother-in-law. Social support was compared between participants with/without case-level depression on the EPDS in linear regression models adjusted for relevant covariates, then stratified by nuclear/traditional family structure.
Of 772 women approached, 751 (97.3%) participated and 730 (94.6%) had sufficient data for this analysis. Prevalence of case-level depression was 33.1% and this was associated with lower social support from all three family members but not with traditional/nuclear family structure. The association between depression and lower emotional support from the husband was significantly stronger in traditional compared to nuclear family environments.
Lower quality of relationships between key family members was strongly associated with third trimester depression. Family structure modified the association but, contrary to expectations, spousal emotional support was a stronger correlate of antenatal depression in traditional rather than nuclear family settings. Previous psychiatric history was not formally ascertained and the temporal relationship between mood state and social support needs to be clarified.