Massage and Relaxation Therapies' Effects on Depressed Adolescent Mothers

By Field, Tiffany; Grizzle, Nancy et al. | Adolescence, Winter 1996 | Go to article overview

Massage and Relaxation Therapies' Effects on Depressed Adolescent Mothers


Field, Tiffany, Grizzle, Nancy, Scafidi, Frank, Schanberg, Saul, Adolescence


Depression is one of the most prevalent medical disorders and has been recognized as a distinct pathologic entity from early Egyptian times. Anxiety is one of the primary features of depression in adolescents (Goldman, 1988), and relaxation therapy (RT) is usually noted to decrease anxiety (Richter, 1984). Using the State-Trait Anxiety Scale, for example, anxiety levels were found to be lower in psychiatric patients following nine sessions of relaxation therapy (Hosmand, Helmes, Kazarian, & Tekatch, 1985). Even following one brief RT session, mood was elevated on the Profile of Mood States Scale (Matthew & Gelder, 1969).

In a longer term outcome study, RT was as effective as psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy in reducing anxiety (McLean & Hakistian, 1979) and even more effective than cognitive behavior therapy (Reynolds & Coats, 1986). Similarly, in a study of depressed child and adolescent psychiatric patients, both groups benefitted from as little as one hour of relaxation therapy (Platania-Solazzo, Field, Blank, Seligman, Kuhn, Schanberg, & Saab, 1992). In that study, self-reported anxiety as well as anxious behavior and fidgeting decreased, and increases were noted in positive affect.

Massage therapy (MT), in contrast, was used in only one study in the literature. In that study child and adolescent psychiatric patients had lower anxiety levels following five massage therapy sessions as well as more optimal affect and sleep patterns and lower stress hormones including cortisol and norepinephrine (Field, Morrow, Valdeon, Larson, Kuhn, & Schanberg, 1991).

The purpose of the present study was to compare the effects of massage and relaxation therapies on anxiety and depression in a sample of depressed adolescent mothers. Maternal depression ranges from 25-30% during the first three months after delivery (O'Hara, Neunaber, & Zekoski, 1984). Even mild depression and anxiety may affect the new mother's relationship with her child. For example, in one study, postpartum depressed mothers demonstrated less rocking, gaze, and positive regard toward their infants than did nondepressed mothers (Livingood, Dean, & Smith, 1983). Others have reported less frequent positive and more frequent negative states among depressed mother-infant dyads (Cohn, Campbell, Matias, & Hopkins, 1990; Field, 1992; Field, Healy, Goldstein, & Guthertz, 1990). Massage and relaxation therapy were expected to decrease the mothers' depressive and anxiety symptoms.

METHOD

The sample was comprised of 32 depressed adolescent mothers who had recently given birth at a large inner-city hospital and were recruited from the hospital's maternity ward. The subjects were randomly assigned to the massage therapy or relaxation therapy group. The groups did not differ on age (M = 18.1), years of education (M = 10.4), ethnicity (71% black, 29% Hispanic), or SES (M = 4.7 on the Hollingshead Index). To qualify for the study the mothers needed to have an elevated Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) score and to be free of current medication or other treatment for depression or related disorders. The depression classification was based on a diagnosis of dysthymia on the Diagnostic Inventory Schedule (Costello, Edelbrock, & Costello, 1985) and a score greater than 16 on the Beck Depression Inventory (Beck, Ward, Mendelson, Mock, & Erbaugh, 1961).

Treatment Procedures

Massage therapy. The massage therapy subjects (N = 16) received a 30-minute massage per day on two consecutive days per week for five consecutive weeks (10 massages). For the first 15 minutes the subjects were in a supine position for massage in the following four regions: (1) head/neck - slow lateral stroking of forehead, followed by long and slow stroking from the neck across the shoulders and from the shoulders to the neck; (2) arms/hands - long and slow stroking from above the shoulder to beyond the hand, followed by individual stroking of each hand; (3) torso - placing the hand gently on the solar plexus (base of chest) and adding a gentle rocking motion; and (4) legs/feet - long, slow stroking from the hip to beyond the foot, followed by stroking each foot.

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