New Research Suggests That “Momfluencers” Sharing Glamorized Depictions Of Motherhood On Social Media Is Causing New Moms To Suffer Negative Mental Health Impacts

In fact, mothers with a greater tendency towards social comparison were more likely to feel less capable in their parenting skills after seeing idealized representations of motherhood on social media. In essence, exposure to such posts resulted in these mothers doubting their own abilities to parent effectively.

“We all have this tendency to compare, but some of us are more inclined to compare than others,” Kirkpatrick said.

“If we know how these posts are affecting mothers and that they are more detrimental to certain moms, then that helps us, from a strategic health communications or health professional standpoint.”

For this study, the researchers collected 20 Instagram posts evenly split between non-idealized and idealized depictions of motherhood. These posts were part of a broader survey that included responses from 464 new mothers. The survey assessed various factors, including the tendency to compare oneself to others, self-esteem, perceived parenting skills, overall life satisfaction, and more.

Kirkpatrick initially theorized that self-esteem might significantly influence how idealized posts affect individuals. But surprisingly, the results didn’t indicate a notable difference in the impact on mothers with either low or high self-esteem.

Additionally, given the surge in popularity of short-form videos in the forms of TikToks and Instagram Reels, Kirkpatrick intends to conduct similar studies using videos that depict motherhood in both idealized and non-idealized ways.

She did point out how she’s been glad to observe an increasing number of mom influencers adopting a more authentic approach to sharing their parenting experiences since she started her research.

“I think it was simpler, with a photo, to capture exactly what you want and leave out everything else. It’s a little bit harder to make sure everything’s perfect in a video, and I’ve seen more of a push for showing realistic portrayals of motherhood as I’ve been collecting these types of posts for the next study,” Kirkpatrick explained.

Still, she has also noticed a concerning new trend that she believes calls for further investigation. For instance, Kirkpatrick has seen numerous instances where postpartum moms promote their “must-have” items. These may include a $1,000 bassinet or a bottle washer that costs $300.

She believes these material items likely add even more pressure for new moms. Then, watching “Day In The Life” videos where mothers can be seen meal planning or cleaning their house nightly just compounds the pressure.

So, Kirkpatrick hopes that her research might assist healthcare professionals in creating methods to identify patients who are more susceptible to the effects of social media, enabling them to implement preventative measures promptly.

2 of 3