Did You Know That Moms Who Post on Facebook Are More Depressed?

Mother and baby at laptop in home office

We all know that new mother who posts photos of her baby on Facebook constantly (guilty as charged!), often to the annoyance of all of her childless friends. Well, a new study just published in the journal Sex Rolesindicates that those always-posting moms might suffer from depression more often than new moms who post less often.

Facebook, the study suggests, presents women with new ways to “do motherhood,” or to perform a gendered role online for an audience, and to receive feedback for that performance. The study looks specifically at the earliest, most stressful months of parenting, saying that Facebook is known as a place that potentially “undermines well-being.”

What do we know about the mothers who were sampled from in this study? 85.7 percent of them were white; about half worked full-time; nearly 87 percent of them were married, and they were almost universally highly educated, with nearly 80 percent having completed college.

Working with a small sample of 127 women from the Midwestern United States, researchers from Ohio State University surveyed mothers on the issue of motherhood as an identity, and the expression of that identity on Facebook. The analysis revealed that the more mothers were concerned with “external validation” of themselves as mothers, and the more those mothers believed that “society holds them to excessively high standards for parenting,” the more likely they were to engage in frequent Facebook posting. The research concludes that “mothers who were more prone to seek external validation for their mothering identity and perfectionistic about parenting experienced increases in depressive symptoms indirectly via greater Facebook activity.”

The size of the study is extremely small and represents a homogeneous set of women who are mostly white and highly educated. But overall, the researchers say that the findings back up previous studies that indicate that Facebook can be undermining to people’s well-being, and they find that, in particular, Facebook is associated with greater parenting stress for new mothers.


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