A small, exploratory study suggests that social media may be a new way for parents to get the support they need during this stressful period of transition.
PROBLEM: First-time moms and dads juggle many new demands after their baby arrives. How does parenthood affect their use of Facebook?
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METHODOLOGY: Researchers led by Mitchell K. Bartholomew surveyed 154 mothers and 150 fathers, most of whom were white and highly educated, nine months after their child's birth about their Facebook use, stress, satisfaction, and parenting self-efficacy.
RESULTS: Mothers, who reported using Facebook more than their partners, tended to increase their online activity after giving birth. Those who visited and managed their accounts more frequently reported higher levels of parenting stress. They reported greater satisfaction with their new role, however, when a greater proportion of their Facebook friends were family members or relatives. Fathers, on the other hand, reported better parental adjustment when their Facebook friends tended to be people they also interact with in real life.
Nearly all of the women said they had uploaded photos of their baby, while 83 percent of the men said they did. Interestingly, 93 percent of mothers and 71 percent of fathers said it was at least "likely" that the photos would be acknowledged by their online friends, either with a comment or a "like," and these parents reported higher levels of satisfaction in their parenting role.
CONCLUSION: New moms increase their use of Facebook after giving birth, and their online activity may influence how well they adjust to parenthood.
IMPLICATION: Facebook may be a way for stressed-out mothers to seek support and for both parents to be reassured. "Parents may feel like they're getting positive feedback about their role as parents," says co-author Sarah J. Schoppe-Sullivan in a statement, "and they particularly need that."
SOURCE: The full study, "New Parents' Facebook Use at the Transition to Parenthood," is published in the journal Family Relations.