What is it about?

Postpartum depression adversely affects mother-infant interaction and infants’ social development. For example, having a depressed mother decrease infants’ tendency to share attention. However, this effect has only been documented in Western cultures. Therefore, this study investigated whether the impact of postpartum depression could be demonstrated in a broader (non-Western) cultural context. Our results suggest that this effect of postpartum depression is culture-sensitive. Infants in more interdependent cultures were not affected in the same way as we have observed in the West. Our leading hypothesis is that extended family structures and social networks mitigate the adverse effects of having a depressed mother.

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Why is it important?

This demonstrates how infants’ social and emotional contexts impact their development. But moreover, it indicates that the social and emotional context must be viewed in a broader cultural context to understand how it shapes development. This study exemplifies how a richer cultural perspective can bring critical insights to a phenomenon that, in turn, leads to a conceptual change. In this case, it suggests that infants in individualistic Western cultures might be more vulnerable to maternal mental health. However, it also suggests that much can be done. It seems possible that an active family context and sufficient maternal support positively impact infants’ environment, which can help mitigate adverse downstream effects of maternal postpartum depression and support infants’ development. Since postpartum depression is one of the most frequent complications following childbirth, understanding how it may affect infant development is very important. This study contributes novel insights to complement our current knowledge.


Most research in developmental psychology is conducted in Western contexts, representing only a global minority. This study highlights why it is important to conduct research in a wide variety of cultural contexts. I would argue this is the only way to come closer to understanding universal principles of human development as something separate from culture-situated development.

Kim Astor
Uppsala Universitet

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Maternal postpartum depression impacts infants’ joint attention differentially across cultures., Developmental Psychology, September 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/dev0001413.
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