Using a longitudinal design, the current study aimed to extend previous research by exploring three questions concerning the mechanism underlying the process of mothers’ personal growth in the aftermath of a premature birth: Are the positive changes reported previously by women who gave birth prematurely long-lasting and salient 4 years post-partum? Does the degree of change in maternal mental health over time predict personal growth 4 years after childbirth? Does the change in maternal mental health mediate between premature birth and personal growth 4 years later? Mental health was examined in four assessment waves: 1 month, and 1, 2, and 4 years after childbirth. Personal growth was tapped in the last wave. Data were collected from 561 Israeli mothers. The findings reveal that mothers who gave birth prematurely report higher personal growth 4 years after childbirth than mothers who delivered at full-term. Moreover, higher initial mental health and greater improvement in mental health over time predicted higher personal growth. In addition, the higher personal growth shown by women who gave birth prematurely was explained by their greater improvement in mental health over time than women who delivered at full-term. Finally, more highly educated and multiparous women reported an increase in mental health over time, which, in turn was associated with higher personal growth. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.
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© 2018, Springer Nature B.V.
- Maternal mental health
- Personal growth
- Premature birth