Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Parenting in the Digital Age: New Mothers and Media Use

If you are an avid blog reader like myself, you are probably aware of the numerous blogs out there written by mothers. These so-called "mommy blogs" have received quite a lot of media attention in recent years as their numbers and prominence has grown. Many of these blogs are authored by moms who do not work outside the home, or if so, part-time. Although these types of blogs have become quite common, scholars have conducted little research to examine the role blogging may play in the social and parenting aspects of these mothers' lives.

That's why I was so excited when I recently read a new study that considers just this issue. The study included 157 new mothers and examined whether blogging and social networking was related to mothers' feelings of social support. The authors hypothesized that greater social support would be associated with better outcomes for moms in a number of areas such as marital satisfaction, parenting stress, and depression. The results of the study were quite revealing about the media use of new mothers:

- On average these mothers reported using the Internet about 3 hours per day

- A majority of the mothers (76%) read blogs at least sometimes, and over half (61%) authored their own blogs

- When asked why they blog, most mothers reported it was either (1) "document personal experiences and share them with others" or (2) "to stay in touch with friends and family"

Perhaps most interesting, however, were the results concerning the role of blogging and social networking in mothers' feelings of social support and well-being. Here are a few highlights:

- The greater frequency with which the mothers reported blogging was associated with greater feelings of connection with family and friends

- Not surprisingly, feeling more connected with family and friends was associated with greater social support

- Mothers' feelings of social support were related to several positive personal outcomes including greater satisfaction with their marriage, less marital conflict, and less parenting stress

- Although depressive feelings were not directly related to mothers' social support, there was an association between social support and depression via parenting stress. In other words, greater social support may help reduce parenting stress, which in turn, relates to fewer depressive feelings.

- In contrast to blogging, social networking (i.e., Facebook and MySpace) was not associated with greater feelings of connectedness or social support

Although much more research needs to be done on this topic, this study is a great first foray into this emerging area of study. As a mother involved in blogging myself I have seen what a great outlet it can be. In generations past, new mothers were often surrounded by numerous family members (aunts, grandmothers, sisters) with young children or those with child rearing experience. Today this is not as common in our mobile society where we are often separated from family and neighborhoods may be isolating. As a new parent, it is often difficult to leave the house often with a newborn, so blogging provides an outlet to social interaction without having to leave home. 

Other components of blogging not examined in this study are the intellectual and financial benefits. Although many "mommy blogs" focus on the parenting and day-to-day experiences of the author, others have a more topic-based theme. Some may focus on parenting research, cooking, or health and wellness. These types of blogs undoubtedly provide the mom/author with not only a social outlet but also an intellectual one as well. Topic-based blogs often require the author to research, write, and possibly even coordinate with other bloggers in the field to promote their area of interest. These blogs, as well as more entrepreneurial blogs (i.e., product reviews and sponsorship) also may provide some moms with the potential for financial gain. Although  it is uncommon for blogs to generate large income, a few authors have turned their "mom blogs" into at-home businesses and even attracted enough attention to receive offers to write books or print articles. 

In sum, it is refreshing to see a topic so relevant to many new mothers being the topic of academic research. This study provided useful initial insight into the important role that blogging and online interaction may play in the social lives and well-being of mothers. Let's hope that other scholars take note and continue this interesting research.
McDaniel BT, Coyne SM, & Holmes EK (2011). New Mothers and Media Use: Associations Between Blogging, Social Networking, and Maternal Well-Being. Maternal and child health journal PMID: 22094592

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