A mixed-methods analysis of the role of online social support to promote psychological well-being in new mothers



Henton S & Swanson V (2023) A mixed-methods analysis of the role of online social support to promote psychological well-being in new mothers. Digital Health.

Objective: Perinatal mental health problems affect between one in three and one in ten women globally. Using social media could offer helpful support to new mothers to mitigate this. This research examines the impact of online social support on parental stress, and the mediating effect of maternal wellbeing. The goal is to improve understanding of how to optimise online maternal support to improve anxiety and reduce long-term stress for mother and child. Design: A mixed-methods, convergent parallel design (QUANT- QUAL) is adopted to facilitate examination of the complex association between constructs. Methods: A Qualtrics online survey was administered via social media to mothers of children under two (n = 151). Quantitative multiple regression analyses assessed perceptions of online social support overall and in separate domains (Social networking sites usage and needs scale) as a predictor of parental stress (Parental Stress Scale) and the potential mediation effect of mental wellbeing (Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale). Purposely designed survey open-text questions allowed participants to describe the detail and impact of online support experiences and common stresses and formed the basis of a qualitative reflexive thematic analysis examining online support and maternal mental health. Results: Mixed-method findings indicate that mothers perceiving more value in online support have higher stress levels and lower wellbeing than others. Mental well-being was a partial mediator of the relationship between online support and parental stress. Non-significant statistical effects were reinforced by qualitative themes indicating online support provided safe guidance, peer solidarity and parenting escape. Conclusions: Maternal online support was predominantly used to cope with high stress, explaining positive stress correlations. Statistically, online coping strategies contributed little to mental wellbeing. Nevertheless, online support was regarded as a valuable and reassuring tool by some participants. Health professionals could improve perinatal anxiety coping by facilitating quality online support networks.

Maternal Health; Social media; Social Support; Perinatal Wellbeing; Maternal Stress; Parental Stress; Motherhood; Perinatal Coping

Output Status: Forthcoming/Available Online

Digital Health

StatusIn Press
Publication date online04/01/2023
Date accepted by journal08/12/2022

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Professor Vivien Swanson

Professor Vivien Swanson

Professor, Psychology