Testing a Bioecological Model to Examine Social Support in Postpartum Adolescents

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The purpose was twofold and included examining a bioecological model as a framework to describe social support in postpartum adolescents. The second purpose was to determine the relationship between a comprehensive view of the context of social support and symptoms of depression.


Cross-sectional design with convenience sampling (n = 85) of adolescents at 4–6 weeks postpartum, recruited from two community hospitals.


Approval was received from the university's IRB (institutional review board), each recruitment site, the adolescent mothers, and their parents or guardians. Data were collected by a research assistant during home visits using a battery of self-report instruments to measure macro, meso, and microsystems of social support. Demographics, exposure to community violence (macrosystem), social support, social network (mesosystem), and perceived stress, mastery, and self-esteem (microsystem) were predictor variables. Depressive symptoms were measured by using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies of Depression (CES-D) Scale.


Variables from each system were significant predictors of depressive symptoms but perceived stress was the strongest predictor. Many postpartum adolescents reported that they had been victims of violence. Significant symptoms of depression were identified in 37% of the postpartum adolescents.


Context is important to consider in comparing international studies of social support. Researchers and clinicians should investigate variables associated with the low incidence of treatment for depressive symptoms in postpartum adolescents.

Clinical Relevance

Feelings of high self-esteem and mastery should be fostered in nursing interventions with postpartum adolescents and routine screening for symptoms of depression should be considered in relevant healthcare settings.

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