Academics, Researchers, and Other Interested Parties


Academics, Researchers, and Other Interested Parties


Two Meredith College faculty members received a $350,000 multi-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to fund research examining the benefit of support systems on maternal mental health. Assistant Professor of Psychology Betty-Shannon Prevatt, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor of Child Development Pamela Norcross, Ph.D., are the co-primary investigators (PIs) on this project.

The NIMH is one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Meredith’s project is one of 20 to be funded. Through their project, Advancing Insight into Maternal Social Support (AIMSS), Norcross and Prevatt will explore how social support interventions during pregnancy affect occurrence of postpartum mood disorders (PPMD).


About the Study

Postpartum mood disorders affect 8-13% of new mothers, with another 16-23% experiencing elevated symptomology throughout the infant’s first year of life. A variety of interventions for PPMD exist, including pharmacological and psychosocial treatments such as social support. However, existing research on advantages of social support programs has been limited to the postpartum period. Benefits of social support programs during pregnancy have not been established and little is known about the conditions under which these programs may affect PPMD.

Meredith researchers will partner with multisite obstetrics and gynecology practices that offer CenteringPregnancy, a group-based prenatal care model with demonstrated positive maternal and infant health outcomes when compared to prenatal care-as-usual. Through this partnership, the project will examine the mental health benefits of the CenteringPregnancy model.

As faculty members in psychology and child development, Norcross and Prevatt bring the perspectives of their disciplines to the project. With its focus on mental health, their research fills an important gap in what is currently understood about maternal health and wellbeing.

The research project will begin using a pre-existing dataset to examine the CenteringPregnancy model versus typical care, and how these options affect maternal depression outcomes. The data collection for this initial phase of the study was funded by a feasibility grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Foundation. 

The project will also involve gathering new data during pregnancy and during early parenting, a process scheduled to begin in fall 2021. There will be an initial data collection during pregnancy and then a follow up after delivery. This model will be followed for the next two and a half years. 

Meredith College undergraduate students will work on both aspects of the research under the supervision of Norcross and Prevatt. Students will also have opportunities to identify some areas of their own interest and to develop their own research questions. 


About the NIMH Grant

The project at Meredith College was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one of the National Institutes of Health through an Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) for Undergraduate Focused Institutions under Award Number R15MH126403. 

The purpose of AREA funding is to support small scale research grants at institutions that do not receive substantial funding from the National Institutes of Health, with an emphasis on providing biomedical research experiences primarily for undergraduate students, and enhancing the research environment at these applicant institutions.


Relevant publications

Prevatt, B.-S., Norcross, P., & Perkins, H. (2022, July). Importance of patient-provider racial minority concordance in postpartum depression screening. Poster accepted for presentation at the International Congress on Infant Studies (ICIS) annual conference, Ottowa, Canada.

Norcross, P., Prevatt, B.-S., & Perkins, H. (2022, July). Prenatal group care as a facilitator of maternal mental health screening. Poster accepted for presentation at the International Congress on Infant Studies (ICIS) annual conference, Ottowa, Canada.

Marroquin-Aparicio, J.,* Norcross, P., Prevatt, B.-S., & Perkins, H. (2022, July). Risk of prenatal depression and anxiety symptoms on birth outcomes: Role of maternal race and SES. Poster accepted for presentation at the International Congress on Infant Studies (ICIS) annual conference, Ottowa, Canada.