Results of the study demonstrated that 44 percent of mothers admitted increasing their Facebook use after giving birth, compared to 27 percent who said it decreased and 29 percent who claimed that it stayed the same.
On the other hand, for fathers, 31 percent claimed that their Facebook use increased, while 19 percent said it reduced and 51 percent said it stayed the same.
The study is the first one to investigate new parents’ use of Facebook during this stressful life event.
According to the researchers, the results offer some initial clues as to how Facebook use may affect new parents’ adjustment to parenthood.
Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, co-author of the study and associate professor of human development and family science at Ohio State University claimed that the findings suggest that despite all the new demands faced by new parents, spending time on Facebook was worthwhile to them.
“Given all the stress that new parents are under and everything they have to manage, it wouldn’t have been surprising if we had found a decrease in Facebook usage - but that’s not what we found,” Sullivan said.
Particularly for mothers, who may spend more time at home taking care of the baby, Facebook may be a way to connect with friends and family and seek support during a stressful event of life.
“These mothers may be taking time off from work, and may be far from family, so this network they created for themselves on Facebook can be very valuable in helping them cope,” said Mitchell Bartholomew, lead author of the study and a graduate student in human development and family science at Ohio State.
The study included 154 mothers and 150 fathers, most of whom were white and highly educated. The information from this study came from questions asked nine months after the birth of their child.
New mothers reported visiting their Facebook accounts more frequently than fathers, and also managing their data more often.
The majority of mothers (58 percent) visited their accounts at least once a day, in comparison to 44 percent of fathers.
Nearly all women (98 percent) claimed that they had uploaded photos of their child on Facebook, while 83 percent of fathers admitted doing the same. Nearly two-thirds of mothers (63 percent) revealed that they uploaded more photos after the birth of their child than they had before, as did 73 percent of fathers.
And 93 percent of mothers and 71 percent of fathers said it was “likely” or “very likely” that the pictures would be acknowledged by their Facebook friends, either with a comment or a “like.”
That kind of feedback was important for new parents as mothers and fathers who said it was “likely” that their Facebook friends would comment on photos also reported higher levels of happiness in their parenting role.
“Parents may feel like they’re getting positive feedback about their role as parents,” Sullivan said.
“These are all first-time parents, and they particularly need that,” she said.
The researchers noted that despite the fact that most of the “friends” that people have on Facebook aren’t usually close friends, still, new parents might enjoy support and feedback even from acquaintances.
“There may be something about getting feedback from someone who doesn’t know you very well that may be particularly encouraging,” Bartholomew said.
“They don’t know you very well, they don’t owe you the positive reinforcement that you may expect from close friends and family, but still they took the time to comment on your photo or post,” she said.
“These mothers may be taking time off from work, and may be far from family, so this network they created for themselves on Facebook can be very valuable in helping them cope,” said Bartholomew.
But, the study found that having close ties on Facebook are important, particularly for mothers.
When mothers had greater proportion of their Facebook friends as family members or relatives, they reported greater satisfaction with their parenting role.
Facebook use was not always linked with better adjustment. Mothers who were more frequent visitors to their Facebook accounts and who managed their accounts more frequently reported higher levels of stress due to parenting.
However Sullivan admitted that they couldn’t tell from this data whether more Facebook use caused stress for mothers, or if mothers with higher levels of stress were more likely to use Facebook frequently.
“I think the most likely interpretation is that mothers who experience higher levels of stress are looking for social support on Facebook so they visit more often,” she said.
“I know that I see a lot of Facebook posts from new mothers talking about how their child wouldn’t sleep, or how their second child was harder than their first. Stressed-out mothers may be using Facebook to vent and to find help,” said Sullivan.
But she claimed that it might be possible that some new mothers see Facebook as just another chore they have to do to communicate with friends and family.
This story has been published in the journal Family Relations.