Intolerance of Uncertainty and Perfectionistic Beliefs About Parenting as Cognitive Mechanisms of Symptom Change During Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Perinatal Anxiety Academic Article uri icon

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  • Objective

    A recent randomized controlled trial of group cognitive behavior therapy (CBGT) for perinatal anxiety showed that CBGT is effective in reducing anxiety and depression in pregnant and postpartum women. In secondary analyses, the role of potential mechanisms of symptom change was examined, including intolerance of uncertainty (IU), self-oriented parenting perfectionism (SOPP) and societal-prescribed parenting perfectionism (SPPP).


    The sample included 75 women (Mage = 31.99, SD = 3.57; 37.3% pregnant, 62.7% postpartum) who sought treatment for anxiety and completed the 6-week CBGT or 6-week waitlist within the larger trial. Measures of anxiety (State-Trait Inventory for Cognitive and Somatic Anxiety; STICSA), depression (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale; EPDS), and the proposed mediators (IU, SOPP, SPPP) were completed at baseline and 6-weeks post-baseline.


    Two moderated mediation models were evaluated to identify potential mediators of the effect of condition (CBGT, waitlist) on anxiety (STICSA; Model 1) or depressive symptoms (EPDS; Model 2). In Model 1, changes in IU partially mediated the effect of condition on anxiety (STICSA) for both pregnant and postpartum women. Changes in SOPP and SPPP were partial mediators for postpartum women only. Change in depression (EPDS) was also a partial mediator for pregnant women in this model. In Model 2, none of the cognitive variables mediated the effect of condition on depressive symptoms (EPDS). However, change in anxiety (STICSA) was a significant mediator of the effect of condition on depression (EPDS) and only among pregnant women.


    The results provide support for IU, SOPP and SPPP as mechanisms of change during CBGT and identify differences in important mechanisms among pregnant and postpartum women.

publication date

  • July 2022