The majority of psychological research is conducted in Western, industrialized contexts with Euro-American middle class families, providing an unrepresentative understanding of human behavior. This is problematic, given that cultural beliefs and behaviors are central to maternal and infant health outcomes. Within the U.S., Black and Native American mothers are 3 to 4 times more likely to die of childbirth-related complications than White mothers. Latina mothers – who have a strong tradition of breastfeeding and postpartum support – become increasingly less likely to breastfeed and more likely to suffer from postpartum depression as they become acculturated into the U.S. How can cultural and psychological insights help us understand and decrease these disparities in maternal and infant health?
To answer this overarching question, my research program identifies psychological and cultural mechanisms underlying disparities in maternal and infant health. My research informs interventions that use a community participatory approach to target the socioeconomic groups most vulnerable to adverse maternal and infant health outcomes.