Stress et transitions à la maternité: liens avec les événements de vie et la sensibilité maternelle

Authors: Gauthier-Légaré, Audrey
Advisor: Tarabulsy, George M.
Abstract: The study of stress is now well established and has been linked to many different aspects of human development. A plethora of studies have shown the effects of stress on different dimensions of adjustment. Specifically, there is an increasing interest in the study of the stress of mothers, who carry the child during the prenatal period and who spend much time with the infant during the early months following birth. However, there are different conceptions of stress and different methods used to operationalize it, making it difficult to draw clear conclusions regarding links between maternal stress and infant and child outcome. Two ideas are specifically addressed in the present dissertation. First, the concept of stress is anchored in the notion that different events require adaptation on the part of individuals and, as such, that the experience of stress is somehow linked to the events with which an individual is confronted. However, the associations between the occurrence of events and the subjective assessments of stress that are grounded in cognitive appraisals of the adaptational requirements and the resources available to cope with such challenges, vary greatly across studies. This is true in the general study of stress, as in the study of parental stress specifically. Second, with respect to maternal stress, studies have mostly focused on very specific time periods to the exclusions of others, in spite of the basic observation that experiences of stress are both linked to, and vary from, experiences of stress at other times of parenthood. With the focus on specific time periods, it is difficult to draw conclusions regarding the evolution of the experience of stress across parenthood and its association to caregiving behavior and child outcome. The goals of this dissertation are two-fold: First, a meta-analysis is conducted to examine the association between objective, event-based measures of stress and subjective, cognitive appraisal-based assessments of stress, while considering different moderating variables. Results reveal a moderate association between the two broad categories of stress measures. However, moderator analyses show that very high associations are found between the experience of negative life events and emotional-state-based indices of self-reports of stress, whereas the association with trait-based reports of stress are virtually non-existent. This is an important finding in light of the frequency at which trait-based assessments are used. Second, the association between events and subjective indicators of stress are greater v in Western countries, in comparison to studies conducted in Asia, suggesting important cultural components to our understanding of this association. Second, a longitudinal study involving 4 different time points covering the last trimester of pregnancy and infant age 16 months was conducted to determine whether there were individual differences in trajectories of stress across the transition to parenthood. Four groups of mothers were identified. For statistical reasons, two of these trajectories, involving atypical patterns of stress across time and very high levels of stress at a given time point, were combined to create 3 different groups. Analyses revealed that this atypical group experienced greater levels of negative life events than the other two groups, and were observed to be significantly less sensitive during interactions with their infant in a home visit completed at infant age 8 months. This finding supports the coherence of the stress experience during the transition to motherhood and the notion that stress is related to the manner in which mothers interact with their infants during the postnatal period. These findings illustrate the importance of maternal stress as a marker of the child’s developmental ecology, during both the prenatal and postnatal periods, and underline that to appropriately understand maternal stress and its impact on child outcome, repeated measures involving the transition to motherhood are required.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2021
Open Access Date: 1 June 2021
Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11794/69244
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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