By Maria Guzman
Growing up my mom always joked with me, “I wish you could have stayed a baby.” She loved that I needed her, that she could hug and kiss me infinitely without my complaints. But most of all, she jokes her favorite thing was the attention she received. We were lucky to live in a neighborhood in Mexico City with extended family living close by. She had sisters to take care of me, friends to spend time with us in our home, and lots of other new mothers to bond with over their children.
There’s no need to express how stressful being a new mother can be. Albeit a joyful time, taking care of a child and recovering physically from childbirth can be emotionally draining. But the image my mother always paints is one of a community that supported her and loved her and probably gave her the energy she needed to be a better mom.
There is an overwhelming amount of research that shows how important social support is for dealing with stress in general.[i][ii] A research group in University of Chicago compiled the information from 66 different studies and found this to be the case. It’s not surprising that social support helps people manage stress. If we know we have people to talk to or to turn to for help in difficult times we are more ready to face these challenges without burning out.
We see the same trend in research that focuses on mothers.[iii] Support from friends and family help new mothers deal better with stress, and this has been proven to help mothers see their children in a more positive light. Mother’s who have the help of people they trust feel more self-esteem, confidence as a parent, and struggle less to access information that helps them problem-solve for their bundle of joy.
What does this mean for parents? The University of Chicago study also found something more surprising: stressful events tend to decrease the amount of social support someone receives. Because of stressful experiences, our natural reaction may be to withdraw, to put less effort into these relationship, even though they are precisely what will make us feel better! Parents may be overwhelmed with the tasks ahead of them and tempted to spend less time with friends and family. But this is precisely what they shouldn’t do. The more parent surround themselves and their baby with loving social support the healthier and happier the baby will grow up to be.
For more information on early experience, see new book:
Posts in this series:
[i] Piper, L. J. (2006). Stressors, social support, and stress reactions: A meta-analysis. University of North Texas). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 120-120 p. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/305294319?accountid=12874. (305294319).
[ii] Joseph, S., Dalgleish, T., Thrasher, S., & Yule, W. (1995). Crisis support and emotional reactions following trauma. Crisis Intervention & Time-Limited Treatment, 1(3), 203-208. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/619055183?accountid=12874
[iii] Andresen, P. A., & Telleen, S. L. (1992). The relationship between social support and maternal behaviors and attitudes: A meta-analytic review. American Journal of Community Psychology, 20(6), 753-774. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/618341659?accountid=12874
See new book on early experience:
Narvaez, D., Panksepp, J., Schore, A., & Gleason, T. (Eds.) (2013). Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development: From Research to Practice and Policy. New York: Oxford University Press. Blog post about the book here.