Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Marriage and Family 82 (June 2020), pp 1056–1072



Copyright © National Council on Family Relations; published by Wiley. Used by permission.


Objective: The aim of the present study was to test a unified framework that integrates several theories into a cohesive model to explain the interplay between neuroticism and intimate relationship quality as risk factors for prenatal depression.

Background: There is a notable spike in risk for depression during pregnancy, and the processes unfolding in the interparental relationship during this important time in the family life cycle might serve to mitigate or enhance this risk. Yet there is a need for theory-driven research integrating multiple conceptual frameworks to explicate the role of intimate relationship quality in depression.

Method: In a sample of 154 pregnant, cohabiting couples, multiple domains of intimate relationship quality were assessed using a semistructured clinical interview. An ecologically valid assessment of core depressive features was implemented, such that daily reports of depressed mood and anhedonia captured the pervasiveness of those symptoms for 2 weeks.

Results: The hypothesized, integrated model was supported for the following two dimensions of intimate relationship quality: conflict management for women and partner support for men. Neuroticism predicted depressive symptoms indirectly through poorer relationship quality and interacted with poorer relationship quality to influence depressive symptoms. In addition, poor sexual quality predicted paternal depressive symptoms, and this effect intensified at higher levels of neuroticism; however, neuroticism did not predict sexual quality.

Conclusions: This integrated approach to studying risk for depression has implications for future research and clinical practice, particularly for clinicians working with pregnant couples when one or both partners are experiencing symptoms of depression.