Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dawn Aycock

Second Advisor

Kimberly Hires

Third Advisor

Jennifer Barkin

Fourth Advisor

Kate Fouquier


Rates of postpartum depressive symptoms (PPDS) have ranged from 10% to 23% in mothers living in the United States. Due to cultural beliefs, Black mothers may be less likely to share their PPDS with their healthcare providers. Therefore, postpartum depression (PPD) may be more common in this population than statistics reveal. Racial identity, an understudied concept in postpartum mothers, has been shown to correlate with psychological health of Black adults. Understanding the influence of racial identity on PPDS and maternal functioning may be helpful in identifying Black mothers at greater risk of developing PPD. The purpose of this study was to assess the relationships between racial identity, PPDS, maternal functioning, and maternal-infant bonding of Black mothers.

A non-experimental, cross-sectional design was used. Black mothers were recruited using social media platforms and flyers distributed at various community locations. Mothers used Qualtrics to complete questionnaires, which measured their demographics and concepts of interest. Hierarchical cluster analysis determined the racial identity groups in the sample and other multivariate statistics were used to examine relationships among variables.

Black mothers (N = 116) ranged in age from 18 to 41 years (M = 29.5 ± 5.3) and their infants were 1 to 12 months old (M = 5.6 ± 3.5). The majority of mothers were married or cohabitating with their partner (71%), had a college degree (53%), worked full-time (57%), and had a total household income of > $26,000 (65%). Six racial identity clusters were identified in the sample (assimilated and miseducated, self-hating, anti-White, multiculturalist, low race salience, and conflicted). The clusters differed in their maternal functioning abilities but not their PPDS. Mothers with a low regard for Black race (i.e. self-hate) or a strong dislike for White race (i.e. anti-White) had lower maternal functioning, and lower maternal functioning was associated with higher PPDS. Individually, PPDS and maternal functioning influenced maternal-infant bonding, but maternal functioning more accurately predicted bonding.

The findings from this study emphasize the need for future research to further explore racial identity in Black postpartum mothers and to develop and utilize culturally appropriate tools to assess PPDS and functioning in Black mothers.

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