MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 1
Running Head: MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING
New Mothers and Media Use:
Associations between Blogging, Social Networking, and Maternal Well-being
Final article published in the Maternal and Child Health
Journal. You can access it here:
McDaniel, B. T., Coyne, S. M., & Holmes, E. K. (2012). New mothers and
media use: Associations between blogging, social networking, and
maternal well-being. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 16, 1509-
1517. DOI: 10.1007/s10995-011-0918-2
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 2
Objectives Drawing on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory and prior empirical research, the
current study examines the way that blogging and social networking may impact feelings of
connection and social support, which in turn could impact maternal well-being (e.g., marital
functioning, parenting stress, and depression).
Methods One hundred and fifty-seven new mothers reported on their media use and various well-
being variables. On average, mothers were 27 years old (SD = 5.15) and infants were 7.90
months old (SD = 5.21). All mothers had access to the Internet in their home.
Results New mothers spent approximately three hours on the computer each day, with most of
this time spent on the Internet. Findings suggested that frequency of blogging predicted feelings
of connection to extended family and friends which then predicted perceptions of social support.
This in turn predicted maternal well-being, as measured by marital satisfaction, couple conflict,
parenting stress, and depression.
Conclusion In sum, blogging may improve new mothers’ well-being, as they feel more
connected to the world outside their home through the Internet.
Keywords: Transition to parenthood, maternal well-being, media use, blogging, social
Running head: MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 3
New Mothers and Media Use:
Associations between Blogging, Social Networking, and Maternal Well-being
The transition to parenthood is a long-term restructuring process that begins at pregnancy
and continues for some time after the birth of the child (1). Due to the substantial demands a
newborn child poses to the family, the transition to parenthood is among the most stressful life
events many individuals experience (2) and can be associated with a host of psychological,
physical, and social problems for parents (2-5). Successful employment of social, familial, and
spousal resources is key to managing parenting stress and to transitioning well to parenthood (6).
Social support for new parents has been connected with better maternal health,
relationship satisfaction, child outcomes, and parent-child interactions (7-9). One way that new
mothers may receive support to navigate and deal with their new responsibilities is through
social connection offered via new forms of media (10). There are mixed claims about the
Internet’s effect on mothers. Some claim that the Internet can help empower women through
online communities and information exchange (11-14). Yet, others claim that the Internet merely
affirms norms of femininity and consumerism (15), which could negatively influence mothers’
feelings of parenting stress, competency, and adjustment to the transition in general. Also, some
studies find that high levels of Internet use may result in less time spent with others and
increased loneliness (16), while other studies show no displacement of time with others (17).
Given these mixed results for overall time spent on the Internet, it is important to examine
specific types of Internet use, such as blogging or social networking that may be associated with
aspects of maternal well-being.
Blogging and social networking are relatively new forms of expression and connection
for mothers. For example, “mommy blogs” have received great attention in the news media and
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 4
are reportedly a very popular media form used by mothers to connect with the wider parenting
community (18). This may be particularly important for new mothers, as such women may feel
isolated and tied down by a newborn’s schedule. Whether new mothers create their own blogs or
read established blogs, participation in blogging may provide such mothers both a distraction and
a sense of connection with other mothers around the world, assuring them that they are not alone
(19). Similarly, social networking may provide a sense of connection for new mothers; such
sites provide ample opportunity to connect with friends and family without ever leaving one’s
Even with many mothers using the Internet on a day-to-day basis, Madge and O’Connor
point out that the use of the Internet by new mothers has not been adequately explored (20).
Plantin and Daneback also explain that many of the studies examining parents’ media use have
lacked theoretical frameworks, leaving many questions unanswered (21). Thus, it is important to
use a strong theoretical framework to empirically examine whether blogging and social
networking can actually facilitate social connection and support for new mothers.
Besides increasing feelings of connectivity for new mothers, participation in new media
may also indirectly influence a mother’s stress, which may impact her depression, marital
quality, and family functioning (2, 22-25). Prior research has established that social support
buffers parenting stresses (26-28). Thus, in this paper we examine how participation in blogging
and social networking may indirectly be associated with a number of maternal outcomes,
including parenting stress, social support, marital conflict, marital satisfaction, and depression.
Based on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory, transition to parenthood researchers
emphasize the interplay between individuals, families, and the larger social context (29).
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 5
Ecological theory assumes that individuals develop in a multitude of systemic contexts: the
microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem. The two systems most relevant to the
role of media on motherhood are the microsystem, which encompasses the relationships and
interactions a mother, her partner, and her child have with their immediate surroundings (e.g. the
interaction they have at home), and the mesosystem, which represents the connection between
the mother and the institutions with which she interacts (e.g., the connection between new media
such as blogging or social networking sites and the mother). Thus, guided by this framework,
mothers should be able to improve interactions within their microsystem (e.g. interactions with
their partner and their child) if these microsystemic interactions are facilitated by their
interaction with others in the mesosystem (e.g. relationships with others in their community
through media institutions such as blogging and social networking sites). For example, mothers
may be able to share successful personal experiences on a blog or social networking site and
receive feedback from other parents that will reinforce perceptions of social support. Mothers
may also learn through observation or vicarious experience as they read about others’
experiences. All of this feedback via blogs and social networking sites may increase perceptions
of social support and reduce a mother’s stress, subsequently enhancing other aspects of her
wellbeing, including increased positive perceptions of marital quality, decreased marital conflict,
and decreased depressive symptoms.
The Current Study
The aim of the current study is to examine whether participation in blogging and social
networking are associated with maternal well-being. We focus on first-time mothers who have
recently transitioned to parenthood, a group that is arguably more at risk for feelings of isolation
and parenting stress than more experienced parents. Based on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 6
theory and other research concerning mothering and media use (e.g., 10, 20, 30), we present the
H1: We hypothesize that new mothers will utilize the computer and Internet every day, with at
least some of this time spent on social networking and blogging.
H2: We predict that the majority of new mothers will report reasons for blogging that align with
perceptions of social support, such as maintaining contact with family and friends.
H3: As outlined in our conceptual framework, we were most interested in mothers’ microsystems
and mesosystems. Therefore, we hypothesize that media social supports, such as blogging and
social networking, will be associated with new mothers’ abilities to stay connected with others in
their social network and with stronger perceptions of social support (mesosytem). We then
hypothesize that social support will be negatively related to mycrosystemic processes including
parenting stress, marital conflict, and maternal depression, and positively related with marital
satisfaction. Decreased parenting stress is expected to be associated with decreased maternal
depression and marital conflict. Marital conflict is expected to be negatively related to marital
satisfaction. Figure 1 shows the hypothesized model.
New mothers were recruited through classroom announcements, emails, and contacts
with local hospitals and birthing clinics. In order to qualify for inclusion in this study, mothers
had to have a baby less than 18 months old which was their only and first child. Mothers who
qualified were directed to the online survey. This research was conducted in accord with
prevailing ethical principles as set forth by the American Psychological Association and was
approved by the University Institutional Review Board (IRB).
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 7
One hundred and fifty-seven new mothers completed the study. On average, the mothers
were 27 years old (SD = 5.15), were in their first marriage, and had been married an average of
3.26 years (SD = 2.15). Their infants were on average 7.90 months old (SD = 5.21). Most of the
mothers were White non-Hispanic, had graduated from college, and had a household income of
less than $50,000. About half of the mothers worked, with some of them working from home.
The average number of hours worked in a week was 12.18 (SD = 15.94). All mothers had a
computer and the Internet in their home (see Table 1).
Media Use and Daily Life. Media use by new mothers was measured by asking them to
enter the average number of hours they use various forms of media per day, such as using the
computer, watching television, using a mobile phone, and listening to music. They were also
asked to indicate how often they participate in these activities across a 5-point scale, ranging
from 1 (never) to 3 (once every 2 to 3 weeks) to 5 (several times a week). Time spent on daily
life tasks was also rated by mothers (e.g., housework, childcare tasks, and sleeping). All media
use items were created specifically for this study and were pilot tested to ensure readability.
Computer and Internet Use. Although it is understood that mothers may also have access
to the Internet via mobile phones, iPads, and other devices, mothers reported mainly on their
computer and Internet use (e.g., “How frequently are you using the internet when on the
computer?”). They also rated how often they engaged in ten specific activities while on the
Internet, including “blogging”, “social networking (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, etc.)”, “checking
email”, “Searching for and reading parenting information”, “reading the news”, “listening to
music (e.g., Pandora, etc.)”, “shopping (e.g., Amazon, Walmart, etc.)”, “researching for a class
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 8
or work”, “chatting”, and “watching TV/Movies”. An “other” item was also included where
mothers could write in additional ways that they used the Internet that were not already listed.
These items were rated on a 5-point scale, ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (very often). Only
blogging and social networking items were retained for the current study.
Reasons for Blogging. Mothers’ reasons for blogging were assessed using a measure
developed by Lenhart and Fox (31). This measure lists ten common reasons for blogging and
asks the participant to rate whether each reason is a (1) major reason, (2) minor reason, or (3) not
a reason that she blogs (Cronbach’s alpha = .71). Reasons include items such as to express
yourself creatively, to document your personal experiences or share them with others, to stay in
touch with friends and family, and to share practical knowledge or skills with others.
Feelings of Connectedness. Feelings of connection were assessed using the following two
items which were rated across a 4-point scale ranging from 1 (very isolated) to 4 (very
connected): (1) extended family and (2) friends (Cronbach’s alpha = .70). For the purposes of
our analysis, a composite ‘connection to extended family and friends’ was created by summing
the items and taking the mean.
Social Support. Social support was measured using the Relationships with Other People
Scale (32-33), an 11-item measure on which mothers rate their perceived availability of support
over the past month. Each item is scored from 1 (none of the time) to 6 (all of the time). Higher
scores represent greater perceived availability of support. Cronbach’s alpha was .90.
Parenting Stress. Mothers completed a 30-item, modified version of the 101-item
Parenting Stress Index (34). Each item is scored on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1
(strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Higher scores represent greater parenting stress
(Cronbach’s alpha = .83).
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 9
Marital Conflict. To assess marital conflict, participants responded to eight common
problems experienced in couple relationships in terms of how often each item is a problem in
their relationship. Items were selected from the RELATE assessment battery (35), such as
“Rearing children” and “Financial matters.” Responses were based on a 5-point Likert scale
ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (very often). In the present study, frequency of conflict had good
internal consistency (Cronbach’s Alpha = .75).
Marital Satisfaction. Marital satisfaction was assessed using the Quality of Marriage
Index (QMI)(36). The QMI is a six-item inventory that assesses marital satisfaction using broad
items, such as “We have a good marriage.” The respondent shows the degree of agreement with
each of the five items on a scale of 1 (very strongly disagree) to 7 (very strongly agree). In the
present study, the QMI had high internal consistency (Cronbach’s Alpha = .96).
Maternal Depression. Mothers completed the CES-D, which is designed to measure
maternal symptoms of depression (37). Mothers rate how often they have felt 20 different
symptoms during the past week. Each item is rated on a 4-point scale ranging from 0 (rarely or
none of the time—less than 1 day) to 3 (most or all of the time—5 to 7 days) (Cronbach’s Alpha
Descriptive Analyses: Mothers’ Media Use
The most frequently used media item by mothers was the computer (M = 5.90, SD =
0.37), with mothers’ rating themselves as using it every day. Interestingly, the amount of hours
the computer was used per day (M = 3.12, SD = 2.50) came behind only childcare tasks (M =
8.72, SD = 4.06) (t (156) = -13.46, p < .001) and sleeping (M = 7.34, SD = 1.52) (t (156) = -17.20, p
< .001). Also, mothers spent about one hour longer on the computer than on housework each day
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 10
(M = 1.87, SD = 1.05) (t (156) = 5.41, p < .001). Watching television (M = 4.88, SD = 1.58),
listening to music (M = 4.78, SD = 1.09), reading books (M = 4.75, SD = 1.29), and texting were
also common (M = 4.59, SD = 1.85).
Computer use. As mothers extensively used computers, it is key to examine what they
were doing while on the computer. The results show that they most frequently were using the
Internet. Mothers were on the Internet while on the computer almost 3 hours per day on average
(M = 2.92, SD = 2.37). In sum, they were on the Internet almost the entire time they were on the
computer each day.
Internet use. The next step was to examine what mothers were doing while on the
Internet. While on the Internet, mothers utilized social networking sites fairly often (M = 3.78,
SD = 1.25) and blogged sometimes (M = 3.30, SD = 1.22). Although these mothers utilized
social networking sites significantly more than blogging on average (t (155) = 4.21, p < .001),
social networking and blogging both ranged from those that never used them to those who used
them very often. There were no significant differences between mothers who blogged and those
who did not on any demographic variables, whereas those who utilized social networking sites
were younger (M = 26.73, SD = 4.97) than those who never used these sites (M = 30.00, SD =
5.67) (t (154) = 2.24, p < .05).
Reasons for Blogging
Blogging was a fairly popular phenomenon in this study. Of 157 mothers, 111 read blogs
at least sometimes (76%), and 96 authored their own blogs (61%). Those who authored blogs
rated their reasons for blogging. The major reasons for blogging were to document personal
experiences or share them with others (89%) and to stay in touch with friends and family (86%).
This appears to support the hypothesized model of blogging linking with connection to others.
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 11
Bivariate Correlations between Study Variables
Bivariate correlations between all main variables are presented in Table 2. All
correlations were in the predicted directions, although some variables were related in
unanticipated ways. For example, social networking was not associated with any outcome
variable, while blogging related only to connection to extended family and friends and social
Analysis Plan. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) using maximum likelihood
estimation in the Analysis of Moments Structure (AMOS) software (38) was conducted to test
the fit of our hypothesized model to the data. SEM is a multivariate statistical analysis which
allows scholars to test and refine complex theoretical models. SEM is preferred over regression
as SEM uses maximum likelihood estimation. Maximum likelihood estimation minimizes bias
(i.e., Type 1 error) in estimates, allows one to include multiple independent and dependent
variables in the same analysis (which offers a better assessment of the overall strength and
direction of effects), and offers basic confidence intervals and other assessments of goodness of
fit for hypothesis testing (39). Goodness of fit indexes compare the observed covariances with
the covariances predicted by the hypothesized model. Assessments of “goodness of fit” include
the chi-square (χ
) test, the Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA), and baseline
comparison indexes such as the Tucker-Lewis Index (TLI) or Comparative Fit Index (CFI). χ
examines whether or not there is a statistically significant difference between the model and the
sample data and degrees of freedom. A non-significant χ
statistic is preferable as it reflects
“exact fit” between the hypothesized model and the data. The RMSEA reflects good model fit
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 12
with a score of .06 or lower (the lower the better), while the TLI/CFI reflect good model fit with
a score of .95 or higher (on a scale of 0 to 1) (40).
Building a sound structural equation model is often referred to in two steps: 1) building
and refining the measurement model, and 2) testing and refining the structural model. While the
measurement model allows one to account for measurement error, an important guideline in
model building is that one must have at least 10 individuals per parameter to be estimated. Due
to our sample size, we were unable to estimate both the structural and measurement models.
Thus, we report only the structural model (for guidelines regarding sample size and parameter
estimation in the measurement model, see Kline, 41). However, we emphasize that the benefits
of maximum likelihood estimation and SEM as a multivariate statistical tool are still present in
the building and testing of the structural model (39, 41).
Results. We tested a structural model of engagement in blogging and social networking as
predictors of connection with family and friends and social support using maximum likelihood
estimation in AMOS. These variables were then modeled as predictors of marital satisfaction,
marital conflict, parenting stress, and depression. The hypothesized model did not meet
acceptable criteria for good model fit (40) (χ² (16) = 24.20, p = .09; RMSEA = .06, lo = .00, hi =
.10; CFI = .94). Initial analyses revealed that social networking did not predict any of the main
variables; accordingly social networking was dropped in the final model. Further, our initial
model suggested that blogging was not predictive of perceptions of social support (β = .09, ns),
thus we also dropped this structural path in the final model. Figure 2 shows the final model with
standardized path estimates for all participants as a whole. The final model fit the data well (χ²
(12) = 10.63, p = .56; RMSEA = .00, lo = .00, hi = .07; CFI = .99). Frequency of blogging
predicted greater feelings of connection with extended family and friends (β = .25, p < .01).
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 13
Connection predicted greater perceptions of social support (β = .36, p < .001), and increased
social support predicted decreased parenting stress (β = -.19, p < .05) and marital conflict (β = -
.33, p < .001), and increased marital satisfaction (β = .26, p < .001). Surprisingly, social support
was not predictive of maternal depression (β = -.13, ns). Finally, decreased parenting stress
predicted decreased maternal depression (β = .24, p < .01) and marital conflict (β = .19, p < .05),
and decreased marital conflict was strongly predictive of increased marital satisfaction (β = -.42,
p < .001).
To our knowledge, this paper is one of the first to examine first-time, new mothers’ social
media use, especially blogging and social networking, and the potential relationship between
media use and maternal well being. According to our results, new mothers appear to be on the
computer around 3 hours per day (mostly on the Internet)—a significant proportion of time. It
may be that some of this time is while mothers are at work, but only half of the mothers in this
sample were currently working. More importantly, during this time, new mothers frequently use
social networking sites and sometimes blogs.
Our results revealed that frequency of blogging positively predicted feelings of
connection to extended family and friends. This could potentially be a result of new mothers’
intentions in their blogging. Whereas in a recent survey of bloggers, 37% blogged in order to
stay in touch with friends and family (31), the majority of new mothers in our sample stated this
as their major reason for blogging (86%). This is similar to previous findings that expression and
affiliation explain most of the reasons people use blogs (42), and media tends to help mothers
stay in touch with others (43).
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 14
New mothers’ interactions with extended family members and friends through their
blogging (i.e., the mesosystem) theoretically influence their feelings of connection and social
support, as well as interactions within their microsystems (i.e., parenting stress, marital
satisfaction, conflict, and depression). Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory would posit that as
mothers are able to share successful parenting experiences on blogs, receive feedback from
family and friends, and also learn through vicarious experience while reading blogs, their
perceptions of social support could increase. Our analyses provide initial empirical support for
these claims. Future research may also wish to examine exosystem and macrosystem processes.
Thus, blogging is indirectly associated with other areas of a mother’s life through feelings
of connection and support. In their review, Gjerdingen, Froberg, and Fontaine found that social
support across the transition to parenthood—in many forms, such as emotional, tangible, and
informational—was positively related to maternal well-being and mental health (44). Social
support has consistently been linked to diminished maternal depressive symptoms (27, 45-46), as
well as better marital functioning (8); both of these associations were observed in this study.
Although there was not a direct effect of perceptions of social support on new mothers’
depression, parenting stress did appear to act as an intervening variable between social support
and depression. In sum, blogging may improve new mothers’ well-being, as they feel more
connected to the world outside their home through the Internet (20, 43).
Conversely, unlike blogging, our results revealed that social networking was not
associated with connectedness or social support. Thus, it appears that social networking
functions somewhat differently than blogging. Perhaps new mothers may use these sites to see
what friends and family are up to in their lives, looking at pictures and status updates, but may
not receive much support in return. Accordingly, they do not feel more connected or supported
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 15
by those important to them, nor do others build their feelings of competence as a parent. We did
not analyze such possibilities in the current research; accordingly this represents one useful
avenue for future research.
There are also privacy concerns with social networking sites, such as MySpace and
Facebook (47), and although Dwyer, Hiltz, and Passerini found that individuals are likely to
disclose most information regardless of trust (48), this process may work differently for mothers;
if a mother feels that she cannot trust the site she may be less likely to disclose parenting
concerns and calls for support. For instance, Mital, Israel, and Agarwal found that trust mediated
disclosure of information at least partially for their sample (49). Future research should examine
how and with whom new mothers interact on social networking sites.
Limitations & Future Directions
This study, although informative and a necessary first step to understanding social media
effects on new mothers, is exploratory in nature. As is the case in any correlational research, we
cannot establish causation. Further, demonstrated effects may be reversed; for example, it may
be that those mothers with stronger relationships tend to turn to blogging more to connect with
extended family and friends. It is also possible that those with better well-being may be more or
less likely to use media for social support. Even if this were the case, we hypothesize that
blogging or reaching out to extended family and friends would reciprocally increase their
perceptions of social support, and social support has been linked by prior research to a variety of
maternal well-being outcomes (7-9, 50-53). Our sample was limited and consisted of mostly
white, highly-educated mothers. It is also important to note that blogging can be done in different
domains. For example, some mothers may blog in order to connect with family and friends,
while others may blog in order to connect with other parents on the web. This study did not
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 16
address this distinction. Finally, our measures of media use were limited (e.g., access to social
media supports on the Internet via mobile phones and other devices was not examined).
There are a number of other directions that may be profitable for future research. As this
study did not have a comparison group of women, future research may wish to compare both
mothers and non-mothers on their media use. Also, it may be of worth to understand exactly
which social networking and parenting sites mothers use most frequently in order for health
professionals to best reach out to mothers on the Internet. Finally, it would be important to
understand whether those who live farther away from parents and extended family are more
likely to blog; blogging may be more beneficial for those who are unable to visit in-person with
Conclusion and Practical Implications
Research on mothers’ media use is still in its infancy; therefore an exploratory study was
necessary. The current study acts as a springboard for the development of larger scale projects
and theoretical models for media influences on new mothers across the transition to parenthood.
New mothers appear to be immersed in new age media, such as blogging and social networking.
This study shows that new mothers’ blogging is associated with feelings of connection to
extended family and friends. These feelings link with perceptions of social support, which are
related to many aspects of maternal well-being, such as marital conflict, marital satisfaction,
parenting stress, and finally depression. As blogging is a relatively simple task and small
associations were found even for those who blogged only sometimes, doctors, clinicians, and
family life educators may wish to mention blogging as one way for new mothers to feel more
connected to extended family and friends.
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 17
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MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 23
Less than $20,000
$20,000 - $50,000
Greater than $50,000
High school graduate
Working from home
Hours working per
Age (in years)
Age (in months)
Length of Marriage
Computer with internet in home
Total N = 157
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 24
Zero-Order Correlations Between Independent and Dependent Variables and Descriptive Statistics
3. Connection to
5. Frequency of
*p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001 (N = 146)
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 25
MEDIA USE AND MATERNAL WELL-BEING 26