Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Child Development


The effects of social network supports on mothering outcomes were examined in a sample of 42 primiparous mothers of four-month-old, fullterm, healthy infants. Social network supports were derived from a social network model. Measures were the Perceived Support Questionnaire; Perceptions of Motherhood Questionnaire; Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment, Maternal Emotional and Verbal Responsiveness Scale; Synchrony analysis of ten minutes of videotaping of the infant-mother interaction during feeding, and structured interview. One-way analyses of variance showed that mothers who had large support networks; those who had access to frequently contacted, proximal support; those who perceived themselves to be supported in dyadic relations, and those who were involved in their communities had significantly more positive perceptions of the transition to motherhood than mothers lacking these supports. However, only community involvement showed a positive effect on perceived competency. Mothers who were involved in their communities and those who had access to support reported significantly less postpartum depression and sense of isolation than mothers lacking community involvement and accessible support. Analyses of behavioral data showed that mothers who had access to support and supportive dyadic relations, compared to those for whom support was inaccessible or for whom relationships were nonsupportive, had significantly higher Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment, Maternal Emotional and Verbal Responsiveness scores and higher synchrony scores. The former scores also varied significantly as a function of the mother's involvement in the community. There were negative effects on several perceptions of motherhood (but not on interaction behaviors) for education and for female sex of child, but there were no meaningful effects for breast vs. bottle feeding, mother's age or mother's income. Pearson Product Moment coefficients of correlation showed that perceptions of motherhood tended to be significantly correlated with one another but that they were less frequently and less highly correlated with interaction behaviors. Network supports tended to be significantly associated with one another but in varying degrees. The results suggest social ecological factors, in general, and network factors, specifically, need to be considered in accounting for early mothering outcomes. The results also have implications for the design of effective postpartum support systems.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Helen Holz Raikes



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158 pages