Facebook Mom Groups Cause Women Stress, Study Finds

For moms looking for help and support, spending too much time in these groups might not be a good thing.

By: Amanda Mushro
Mother holding baby son worrying about laptop

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Mother holding baby son worrying about laptop

Photo by: JGI/Jamie Grill

JGI/Jamie Grill

Parenting is stressful. Whether you have one kid or five kids, the different ages and stages of parenting bring on new questions, new worries, and new stresses. For many parents, turning to online groups — such as the numerous mom groups on Facebook — may seem like a way to get help and support whenever you need it most.

However, if you spend a little time in these groups, you’ll see that sometimes the good advice and support is overshadowed by the not-so-good advice and judgment. Still, for many moms, turning to these groups is a way to reach out to and relate to other moms. However, a new study suggests that online mom groups could be stressing out parents more than helping.

According to a new study from Pepperdine University, the more time that moms spend in online parenting groups, the higher their cortisol stress levels become.

"The culture of intensive motherhood says you need all the experts," says Dr. Lauren Amaro, who conducted recent research on the topic with fellow professors. "Moms going into online spaces have thousands of voices weighing in on their choices, and it’s overwhelming."

Dr. Amaro felt inspired to look into the phenomenon that is social media mom groups after her own negative experience in a Facebook group.

She says that she asked a simple question to the group, "What kind of eczema treatment works best?" and it quickly resulted in conflicting information from the group and plenty of judgmental comments. Some moms, she says, jumped onto the thread just to shame others for suggesting steroid creams or for suggesting natural remedies like coconut oil. Then the conversation really went south when someone asked her if she had vaccinated her baby, implying that a shot had caused her baby’s eczema.

"I found it paralyzing and had to move out of that space," said Dr. Amaro.

For the study, researchers followed 125 moms and chose 47 of these moms who were active on social media and in mom groups. What they found was that nearly half of the participants used social media geared towards moms at least four times a day, and 55% of the moms spent at least two hours a day on social networking sites.

Through surveys, sleep monitors, and saliva samples, the researchers found that many of the moms demonstrated high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. What was causing the stress? The moms say it was negative interactions with other moms in the group and the amount of time they spent engaging and interacting with these moms posting and commenting in the groups.

So, if a mom is trying to stay offline, but still wants to make a connection with others and get advice, where should she turn? The authors of the study say that moms should contact real-life friends, relatives, and pediatricians for advice.

While that definitely makes sense, for many moms, that support system does not exist — for a myriad of reasons. For many moms, if they need help, it’s easier to reach out to strangers online.

"My advice is for mothers to first decide if the online space is the best place to seek support, given their existing tendencies to compare and their existing interpersonal relationships," says Amaro. "Moms should explore the culture of a group prior to engaging. It’s always worth questioning why and what you’re scrolling."

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