Washington | Women who feel societal pressure to be perfect moms and identify strongly with their motherhood role post more frequently on Facebook than others, a new study has found.
These same mothers who posted most frequently also reported stronger emotional reactions to comments on the photos they posted of their new baby – such as feeling bad if they did not get enough positive comments, researchers said.
The study looked at a specific group of moms – highly educated, mostly married women who had full-time jobs – and found that those who felt societal pressure to be perfect moms and who identified most strongly with their motherhood role posted more frequently than others to Facebook.
While many new mothers are active on Facebook, these results suggest some seem to be more drawn to the site than others and may use it in less-than-healthy ways, said Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan from Ohio State University (OSU) in the US.
If a mother is posting on Facebook to get affirmation that she is doing a good job and does not get all the ‘likes’ and positive comments she expects, that could be a problem. She may end up feeling worse, she said. Those mothers who posted more on Facebook tended to report more depressive symptoms after nine months of parenthood than other moms, researchers said.
The message of the study is not that Facebook is necessarily harmful – but that using Facebook may not be an effective platform for women to seek and gain external validation that they are good moms, said Jill Yavorsky from OSU. Researchers studied 127 mothers from Ohio.
When the women were in their third trimester of pregnancy, they measured how much they believed society expected them to be perfect parents. They were asked to rate how much they agreed with statements like only if I am a perfect parent will society consider me a good parent.
Nine months after the baby was born, researchers measured how much the women identified with their role as a mother. They rated how much they agreed with statements like I know people make judgements about how good of a partner/mother I am based on how well cared for my house and family are.
Researchers also measured the frequency of their Facebook activity since their child was born, how often they uploaded photos of their children to Facebook and their emotional responses to friends’ comments and likes of child photos.
Mothers who did make their child’s image their own profile photos tended to show stronger identification with their mother role than women who did not, researchers said. Moms also reported how often they felt depressive symptoms at three and nine months after giving birth.
One of the key findings was how mothers who thought society expected them to be perfect and who identified strongly with their motherhood role reacted to Facebook posts, said Yavorsky.
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