Linda G. Henson

University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States

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Publications (6)9.16 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: This article examines the extent and nature of father participation in a perinatal, community-based doula home-visiting intervention that served young, African American mothers from low-income backgrounds and their infants. Home-visitor service records were used to assess the quantity, setting, and content of father-attended visits. Correlates of fathers’ participation and thematic insights from mothers’ and home-visitors’ perspectives on how fathers perceived and interacted with the home-visiting program were analyzed to further characterize the nature of father participation. Although the community-doula home-visiting model does not include special outreach to increase father participation, almost half of the mothers had a doula visit at which their baby's father was present, many of which took place in medical settings. Mothers and doulas reported that fathers were generally positive about the doula, but expressed that fathers viewed the doula as a substitute provider of support that fathers seemed reticent to provide themselves. These results suggest that community doulas who visit pre- and postpartum in multiple settings have unique opportunities to have contact with fathers that traditional home visitors or early childhood specialists may not have.
    Infant Mental Health Journal 08/2014; · 0.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Despite recent efforts to increase breastfeeding, young African American mothers continue to breastfeed at low rates, and commonly introduce complementary foods earlier than recommended. This study examines the effects of a community doula home visiting intervention on infant feeding practices among young mothers. Low-income, African American mothers (n = 248) under age 22 years participated in a randomized trial of a community doula intervention. Intervention-group mothers received services from paraprofessional doulas: specialized home visitors trained as childbirth educators and lactation counselors. Doulas provided home visits from pregnancy through 3 months postpartum, and support during childbirth. Control-group mothers received usual prenatal care. Data were obtained from medical records and maternal interviews at birth and 4 months postpartum. Intent-to-treat analyses showed that doula-group mothers attempted breastfeeding at a higher rate than control-group mothers (64% vs 50%; P = .02) and were more likely to breastfeed longer than 6 weeks (29% vs 17%; P = .04), although few mothers still breastfed at 4 months. The intervention also impacted mothers' cereal/solid food introduction (P = .008): fewer doula-group mothers introduced complementary foods before 6 weeks of age (6% vs 18%), while more waited until at least 4 months (21% vs 13%) compared with control-group mothers. Community doulas may be effective in helping young mothers meet breastfeeding and healthy feeding guidelines. The intervention's success may lie in the relationship that develops between doula and mother based on shared cultural background and months of prenatal home visiting, and the doula's presence at the birth, where she supports early breastfeeding experiences.
    PEDIATRICS 11/2013; 132 Suppl 2:S160-6. · 4.47 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Doulas, whose traditional role is to support women during labor and delivery, are being increasingly utilized within community‐based programs where a primary goal is supporting mother–infant relationships. The present study investigated the effect of doula services on parenting among young, low‐income mothers. A total of 248 pregnant women were randomly assigned to receive either doula services or routine medical and social services. The doulas provided prenatal home visitation, support during labor and delivery, and 3 months of postpartum home visitation. Parenting was assessed through video recordings of mother–infant interaction at 4, 12, and 24 months of child age and maternal report of parenting attitudes and stress. Intent‐to‐treat analyses showed that mothers who had received doula services endorsed more child‐centered parenting values, showed more positive engagement with their infants, and were more likely to respond to infant distress at 4 months. Their infants were less likely to show visible upset during observed interactions. Most effects of the program on parent and child behavior faded over time. Community doula intervention is a promising practice for supporting parenting and parent–infant interaction. Integration of doulas into longer term home‐visiting models might sustain the early impact of doula services and enhance parenting services offered by traditional home‐visiting programs.
    Infant Mental Health Journal 01/2013; 34(5). · 0.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this longitudinal study was to examine changes in young mothers' depressive symptoms from pregnancy through the first two postpartum years and how supportive relationships with key individuals were related to mothers' depressive symptoms over time. Data were collected from young, low-income African American mothers (N = 248) during pregnancy and at 4, 12, and 24 months postpartum. Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) analyses revealed that depressive symptoms were highest during pregnancy and declined through 24 months postpartum. Supportive relationships with the father of the baby and the mother's parent figure were related to lower levels of depressive symptoms. Although the association between father support and the mother's depressive symptoms remained consistent over time, support from the parent figure became increasingly more important during the young mother's transition to parenting. Further analyses also revealed that the association between support and depressive symptoms depended on other aspects of these relationships. Greater support from the baby's father was only related to fewer depressive symptoms for mothers who were partnered with the father of the baby. Greater support from the parent figure was only related to fewer depressive symptoms for mothers who were coresiding with the parent. Finally, having a repeat pregnancy during the early postpartum years was related to higher levels of depressive symptoms during the subsequent pregnancy. These findings suggest that screening and interventions for depression in young mothers should begin during pregnancy and include a focus on her proximal social relationships.
    Journal of Family Psychology 08/2012; 26(4):585-94. · 1.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The involvement of 124 young mothers in a doula support program was measured in two dimensions—quantity of program contact and quality of mother–doula helping relationship. The study examined each dimension's differential associations with maternal outcomes, as well as the moderating effects of mother characteristics on these associations. Quantity of program contact was related to the quality of helping relationship, especially when rated by doulas. Both quantity and quality of involvement predicted the maternal outcomes, although not always in the expected direction. For mothers with limited vocabulary skills and better connections with the baby's father, program contact was more likely to promote positive birth experiences. A negative association between program contact and parenting behaviors was observed among mothers who were less mature or had less positive social relationships. The study suggests the multidimensionality of program involvement and the complexity of interactions between program and participant factors in producing program outcomes. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Journal of Community Psychology 02/2010; 38(2):172 - 190. · 0.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although theory and empirical research with middle-class, mostly White women have suggested that motherhood is an important developmental transition for women, rarely have investigations of adolescent motherhood systematically examined developmental change. This study examines one aspect of change during the transition to parenthood: the mother's emerging perception of her infant. During pregnancy and at 4 months' postpartum, 220 urban African American mothers between the ages of 13 and 21 years were asked to describe their infants. Content analysis of their responses and ratings of the affective tone of the responses suggest that there are changes from pregnancy to 4 months after the birth that parallel shifts noted in literature on women going through the transition to motherhood as adults. Between pregnancy and 4 months, there was a decreasing focus on infant health and physical appearance and an increasing focus on infant behavioral achievements and personality characteristics. Of particular importance to mothers was that their infants be “good” babies who were easy to care for and were easily accepted by the family. Mothers imagined physical similarities with their infants during pregnancy and describe aspects of their interaction and emotional bond with their infants at 4 months. Overall, mothers' descriptions of their babies were quite positive, increasingly positive over time, and offered little evidence that for these young African American women the transition to parenthood was problematic.
    Infant Mental Health Journal 08/2009; 30(5):477 - 500. · 0.61 Impact Factor