Emily Wolfe-Sherrie Receives NSF DDRIG

April 8, 2020

Emily Wolfe-Sherrie Receives NSF DDRIG

Emily Wolfe-Sherrie

To support student research, the National Science Foundation (NSF) offers the Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grants (DDRIG) for each subfield. The NSF’s Biological Anthropology Program notes that the program, “supports multifaceted research to advance scientific knowledge of human biology and ecology, including understanding of our evolutionary history and mechanisms that have shaped human and nonhuman primate biological diversity.” The funds support travel to field sites, materials required for the research, and associated fees. Typically, 25-40 of these awards are presented across the nation, annually. This year, PhD Candidate Emily Wolfe-Sherrie is one of those few.

Wolfe-Sherrie’s dissertation titled, The Role of Culture, Social Support, and Oxytocin on Postpartum Depressive Symptoms in Coatepec, Mexico, investigates the risk factors for postpartum depression, which afflicts roughly 13% of women across the globe. Previous research in this field has focused on either the biological risk factors or the cultural influences. Wolfe-Sherrie’s study is unique in that it “adopts a blended, biocultural perspective that offers a more integrated understanding of the risk factors, thereby improving clinicians’ ability to identify mothers at risk for postpartum depressive symptoms.” 

Wolfe-Sherrie explores two questions: (1) does greater discordance between received and expected social support in the postpartum result in poorer maternal mental health? (2) is the hormone oxytocin related to this relationship? To conduct this project, she will follow a cohort of Mexican women from Coatepec, Veracruz. First, she will interview local women to characterize the local cultural expectations of social support. Next, a group of 150 pregnant women will be interviewed during their third trimester, and again approximately 40 days postpartum to determine congruence between received support (reported and directly observed) and cultural expectations of social support, depressive symptoms, and urine oxytocin levels. Wolfe-Sherrie states that, “Findings from this project will not only further scientific theory, but also provide insight on a problem that greatly affects women around the globe.”

We extend our congratulations to Emily, and wish her best of luck with her research!

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