The Role of Racial Identity on the Mental Health and Functioning of Postpartum Black Mothers
by Kortney Floyd James
Rates of postpartum depressive symptoms (PPDS) have ranged from 10% to 23% in mothers living in the United States. Due to cultural beliefs, Black mothers may be less likely to share their PPDS with their healthcare providers. Therefore, postpartum depression (PPD) may be more common in this population than statistics reveal. Racial identity, an understudied concept in postpartum mothers, has been shown to correlate with psychological health of Black adults. Understanding the influence of racial identity on PPDS and maternal functioning may be helpful in identifying Black mothers at greater risk of developing PPD. The purpose of this study was to assess the relationships between racial identity, PPDS, maternal functioning, and maternal-infant bonding of Black mothers.
A non-experimental, cross-sectional design was used. Black mothers were recruited using social media platforms and flyers distributed at various community locations. Mothers used Qualtrics to complete questionnaires, which measured their demographics and concepts of interest. Hierarchical cluster analysis determined the racial identity groups in the sample and other multivariate statistics were used to examine relationships among variables.
Black mothers (N = 116) ranged in age from 18 to 41 years (M = 29.5 ± 5.3) and their infants were 1 to 12 months old (M = 5.6 ± 3.5). The majority of mothers were married or cohabitating with their partner (71%), had a college degree (53%), worked full-time (57%), and had a total household income of > $26,000 (65%). Six racial identity clusters were identified in the sample (assimilated and miseducated, self-hating, anti-White, multiculturalist, low race salience, and conflicted). The clusters differed in their maternal functioning abilities but not their PPDS. Mothers with a low regard for Black race (i.e. self-hate) or a strong dislike for White race (i.e. anti-White) had lower maternal functioning, and lower maternal functioning was associated with higher PPDS. Individually, PPDS and maternal functioning influenced maternal-infant bonding, but maternal functioning more accurately predicted bonding.
The findings from this study emphasize the need for future research to further explore racial identity in Black postpartum mothers and to develop and utilize culturally appropriate tools to assess PPDS and functioning in Black mothers.
Including Black Mothers’ Perspectives: Adapting Racial Centrality to Mercer’s Becoming a Mother Theory
Kortney Floyd, MSN, APRN, CPNP, PhD Student* & Regena Spratling, PhD, RN, APRN, CPNP
Motherhood is a phenomenon experienced by women of various ages, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity. The Becoming a Mother theory (BAM) by Mercer explains the complex process in which a woman transitions into motherhood. Mercer’s initial work focused on mothers who were middle to upper-class, highly educated, and partnered White women, and does not reflect the experiences of Black mothers.
Significance: Maternal identity, a woman’s internalized view of herself as a mother, is a key concept of the BAM and contributes to a mother’s psychosocial development which also influences maternal-infant bonding and infant development. Due to their culture, traditions, and experiences with discrimination, Black mothers have different perspectives on motherhood. There is a paucity of data which reflects Black women’s perspectives on motherhood but lacks a theoretical framework. Methods: By utilizing Walker and Avant’s iterative theory derivation process, the BAM theory was adapted to incorporate racial identity into the contextual concepts. In order to assess Black mothers’ experiences, research exploring their maternal identity must include concepts and definitions reflective of the influence race has on their identity. Results: Racial identity, when describing Black people in America, is the significance and meaning of self that individuals attribute to their membership within black racial groups. By modifying the BAM model to include components of Seller’s Multi-Dimensional Model of Racial Identity (MMRI), the experiences of Black women as they transition into motherhood can be fully understood. MMRI has been utilized in research examining the relationship between racial identity and psychological health and well-being. Discussion: The inclusion of the concept of racial identity into the BAM model may better reflect Black mothers’ experiences. Being Black is central to one’s identity and impossible to exclude from influencing one’s journey in life; the journey into motherhood for Black women is no different. By gaining knowledge about the unique needs of Black mothers, nurses can develop interventions which reimagine maternal-child nursing and positively impact Black mothers and their infants.