Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
Most parenting research to date focuses on the child rather than the parents. But considering the prevalence of postpartum depression and the emotional roller coaster that is becoming a mother, one could argue that more research should be dedicated to this emotionally fragile yet exquisitely beautiful time in a woman's life.
Fortunately, a forthcoming study to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology will shed a light on the delicate relationship between motherhood and self-esteem. The researchers, led by psychologist Wiebke Bleidorn, enlisted roughly 85,000 pregnant Norwegian women to fill out questionnaires throughout their pregnancies and into the first few years of their children's lives.
As it turns out, a woman's self-esteem seemed to take a dive during pregnancy, rebound after giving birth and into the first six months of their child's life, and hit a low point when the child reaches 3 years old. The study authors surmise that this up-and-down pattern is due to a fear of giving birth, anxiety surrounding the health of the baby, body image issues, the challenges that come with the toddler years, and a sense of mastery over child-rearing skills that fluctuates as the child ages.
Of course, the study is limited by its cultural specificity. "It remains an open question if similar results can be found in mothers from other countries," write the authors. After all, Norwegians do have some of the most generous family policies, including a combined 12 months of paid parental leave and universal access to childcare. It stands to reason that these emotional dips could be even more dramatic in other countries where gender parity isn't a legislative priority.
Head over to Slate for more, and share your thoughts on the forthcoming study below.