Psychology, Department of


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Published in Journal of Marriage and Family 84 (2022), pp 515–532.

DOI: 10.1111/jomf.12806


Copyright © 2021 National Council on Family Relations; published by John Wiley & sons. Used by permission.


Objective: The purpose of the present study was to investigate perceived difficulties in affective communication as a key mechanism linking attachment anxiety and avoidance during pregnancy to the quality of postpartum support received by partners.

Background: During the postpartum period, partner support has the potential to promote family well-being by mitigating stress related to changes experienced during this transition. Attachment security is one of the most robust predictors of intimate relationship processes and impacts partner communication and support dynamics.

Method: Heterosexual couples (N = 159) completed surveys and semi-structured interviews to obtain measures of attachment security, perceived difficulties in affective communication, and quality of partner support quality during pregnancy. At 6 months postpartum, partners completed interviews to assess the quality of partner support received since childbirth.

Results: Greater attachment anxiety and avoidance predicted greater impairments in affective communication for men and women. Paternal difficulties with affective communication predicted the quality of support received by both mothers and fathers during the 6 months following childbirth controlling for prenatal support. The effects of attachment anxiety and avoidance on postpartum support were mediated by paternal perceptions of poor affective communication.

Conclusion: Findings demonstrate the utility of attachment theory for understanding adaptive and maladaptive prenatal couple dynamics and examining both parents in research on heterosexual couples navigating the pregnancy-postpartum transition. Results identify deficits in prenatal affective communication as a key factor explaining the link between attachment insecurity and postpartum partner support, warranting closer attention in interventions.

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