Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Development and Family Science


Developmental Science


Human Development and Family Science

First Advisor

Sue K. Adams


The experience of pregnancy and childbirth is both an exciting and stressful time in a woman’s life. New mothers, particularly those experiencing depression, can experience difficulty handling life’s daily activities, including increases in financial stressors during pregnancy and after childbirth. Women are more likely to experience depression compared to men; and women of child-bearing age are even more at risk, regardless what their race or economic status is (Cadigan & Skinner, 2015). Moreover, financial worry occurs when a person has difficulty meeting basic needs including housing, food, health care, or having late and skipped bills. The United States provides a number of social services to support those in need, such as Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Cash Assistance, Housing Assistance and Head Start to name a few. However, a number of barriers interfere with participating in service utilization including job conflicts, transportation, environmental barriers, confusion about eligibility, dissatisfaction, stigma, embarrassment and lack of social support related to accepting government assistance (Panzera et al., 2017).

The current study examines new mothers’ experiences with social service utilization, financial worries and concerns and maternal depression. The association between psychological and social factors in the health outcomes of new mothers is explored using the psychosocial theoretical framework. This study utilizes data collected from The Baby’s First Years Project; a randomized control trial in the US designed to identify the impact of poverty reduction on children’s development. The sample included 1,050 low-income mother/infant dyads from four cities in America; New York City (NY), New Orleans (LA), Omaha (NE), and Twin Cities (MN). Linear regression was utilized to examine the impact of financial stress and service utilization on maternal depression after birth. Results revealed that demographic factors and financial worry significantly predicted maternal depression over and above the amount of service supports utilized by mothers. The results of the study contribute to the limited research available on the moderating role of service utilization and would be beneficial for healthcare officials and policy makers.



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