“Do you dare to compare?” Associations between maternal social comparisons on social networking sites and parenting, mental health, and romantic relationship outcomes.
Social comparisons on social networking sites can be problematic for some individuals. However, this has never been examined in a parenting context, where the pressure for mothers to portray themselves as “perfect parents” may be high. The aim of the current study was to examine associations between making social comparisons on social networking sites with mothers’ parenting, mental health, and romantic relationship outcomes. In the iMom Project, 721 mothers completed a number of questionnaires regarding their social media use, parenting behaviors, and health outcomes. Results revealed that making social comparisons on social networking sites was related to parenting outcomes (in the form of higher levels of parental role overload, and lower levels of parental competence and perceived social support), relationship outcomes (in the form of more conflict over social networking sites and perceiving less positive coparenting relationships) and higher levels of maternal depression. This study adds to a growing literature suggesting that making social comparisons online may be associated with a number of negative outcomes, and extends it to the context of mothering. This study has implications for the way that mothers use social media, specifically in the use of social comparisons.
Computers in Human Behavior
Coyne, Sarah M.; McDaniel, Brandon T. PhD; and Stockdale, Laura A., "“Do you dare to compare?” Associations between maternal social comparisons on social networking sites and parenting, mental health, and romantic relationship outcomes." (2017). Health Services and Informatics Research. 161.
What is already known on the subject?
Individuals regularly make social comparisons towards others. Recent research has revealed that making social comparisons extends to social networking sites and that this can be related to depression and problems with self-esteem.
What this study adds?
This study extends this research to a mothering context. To our knowledge, it is one of the first studies to show that making social comparisons on social networking sites can be problematic for mothers. Specifically, the study found that making social comparisons
Social comparisons on social networking sites
Social networking has become extremely popular, with millions of users on popular sites, such as Facebook and Twitter (Facebook, 2014, Roetter, 2013). Engagement with social networks can be positive for many individuals, with research showing positive outcomes in multiple contexts, including friendships (Dainton, 2013), romantic relationships (Saslow, Muise, Impett, & Dubin, 2013), and the wider peer network (Ellison, Steinfeild, & Lampe, 2007). However, other research has shown negative
Parenting and social networking sites
One group that has been understudied regarding social media use and social comparisons are parents. Parents use social media for a variety of reasons, but major reasons include to gain information regarding parenting and to feel support from others (e.g., McDaniel, Coyne, & Holmes, 2012). However, other research has found negative outcomes of social networking for parents. For example, research has found that higher levels of Facebook use were related to increased parental stress for new
Research aims and hypotheses
The goal of the current study was to examine the relationship between mother’s social comparisons on SNS and maternal outcomes in parenting, mental health, and relationship domains. Based on social comparison theory we made three main hypotheses.
Higher levels of social comparisons to other parents on SNS would be associated with higher parental role overload and lower levels of parental competence.
Higher levels of social comparisons on SNS would be related to greater depressive symptoms and
Procedure and participants
Participants were 749 mothers (M age = 30.38, SD = 5.15) who were part of the iMom Project (Internet Mom Project), a study which assessed mothers’ media and internet use as well as a variety of personal and relational variables. Mothers were recruited through emails and fliers posted in local community buildings as well as on a popular parenting website for a study on women’s internet use and general well-being. Of the initial sample of mothers, 94% used social networking sites (n = 704), with
Data screening revealed several skewed variables, including depressive symptoms, support, relationship satisfaction, and coparenting quality. These variables were log transformed to improve normality. SNS frequency also showed several outliers, which were reduced to the next highest scale point (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2007). Table 1 shows bivariate correlations between all variables.
We utilized structural equation modeling (SEM) in AMOS (Arubckle & Wothke, 1999) to examine whether SNS comparisons
This study provides initial evidence that social comparisons on SNS are associated with a number of negative maternal outcomes, in a number of different contexts. In the parenting context, higher levels of social comparisons to other parents on SNS were related to more role overload and lower levels of perceived parental competence. This study adds to the growing literature that suggests that social comparisons on SNS tend to be related to a host of negative behavioral and mental health