PhotoFor many moms, Facebook is a stage on which to showcase their picture-perfect parenting. But are some moms more likely to seek validation through ‘likes’ and comments than others?

According to a new study, the answer is yes. Researchers from Ohio State University found that moms in two camps tend to post more frequently than others to Facebook: those who feel societal pressure to be perfect moms, and those who identify very strongly with their motherhood role.

The same mothers also reported feeling bad if, for instance, a photo they posted of their new baby didn’t get enough positive comments. This disappointment could result in a mixed bag of emotions for new moms, researchers say.

Affirmation-seeking behavior

Lead author of the study and professor of human sciences at Ohio State University, Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, says the results suggest that some mothers may gravitate toward Facebook for the wrong reason. Namely, to be assured that they are a good mother.

“If a mother is posting on Facebook to get affirmation that she’s doing a good job and doesn’t get all the ‘likes’ and positive comments she expects, that could be a problem. She may end up feeling worse,” Schoppe-Sullivan said in a statement.

Indeed, Schoppe-Sullivan and her team found that moms who posted more on Facebook reported more depressive symptoms after nine months of parenthood.

Central to identity

Women who uploaded their child’s photo as their profile picture were found to identify more strongly with their role as a mother than those who didn't. 

“What these mothers are saying is that my child is central to my identity, at least right now. That’s really telling,” Schoppe-Sullivan said.

She adds that these types of mothers are also more likely to pay close attention to -- and be more emotionally affected by -- the comments rolling in beneath a photo of their baby. Either the outpouring of likes and comments would leave them feeling validated, or the lack thereof would cause them to feel disappointed.

Jill Yavorsky, co-author of the study and a doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State, wasn't surprised by these results given the fact that, "the easiest way for women in our society to get validation is still through being a mother because other roles that women take on are still not as valued.”

The full study is published in the online journal Sex Roles.

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