Researchers have found that parents of newborns show poorer adjustment to their new role if they believe society expects them to be perfect mothers and fathers, stated in a press release from Ohio State University.
Mothers showed less confidence in their parenting abilities and fathers felt more stress when they were more worried about what other people thought about their parenting skills. However, self-imposed pressure to be perfect was somewhat better for parents, especially for fathers, according to the results.
” The findings are some of the first to show how the quest for perfectionism affects first-time parents,” said Meghan Lee of Ohio State University, lead author of the study.
“Trying to be the perfect parent is a mixed bag,” said Lee.
“If you think you have to be perfect because of outside pressure, it really hurts adjustment. If you put these demands on yourself, it may have some benefits early on, but it is not universally good.”
This study is part of a larger “New Parents Project” that is studying how dual-earner couples adjust to becoming parents for the first time. The findings appear online in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
For this study, the researchers examined 182 couples who became parents between 2008 and 2010.
In the final trimester of the woman’s pregnancy, both spouses completed a questionnaire measuring their levels of both societal-oriented and self-imposed parenting perfectionism. Three months after the birth of their child, the same couples answered questions about their adjustment to their new roles.
The results showed that the parents’ perfectionistic tendencies were associated with how well they adjusted.
Mothers who had higher levels of societal-oriented perfectionism tended to have lower levels of self-efficacy about their parenting. “That means they didn’t have as much confidence in their ability to perform their tasks as mothers,” said Schoppe-Sullivan, associate professor at Ohio State University.
For fathers, societal-oriented perfectionism was associated with higher levels of parenting stress.
Self-oriented perfectionism was linked to higher levels of parenting satisfaction for mothers, but it had no effect on their self-efficacy or stress.
For fathers, self-oriented perfectionism was related to better adjustment in all three areas: higher satisfaction, lower stress, and higher parental self-efficacy.