The Protective Role of Feeling Supported in Motherhood

While we often discuss and explore the impact that parents – mothers in particular – can have on their children’s well-being, we may be prone to overlook the emotional impact that raising children can have on mothers. In a 2015 article in Developmental Psychology, “Who Mothers Mommy? Factors That Contribute to Mothers’ Well-Being, the authors, Suniya Luthar and Lucia Ciciolla investigated two central factors likely to impact mothers: 1) parenting experiences and 2) personal support.

While it is not surprising that mothers often experience stress when their children are distressed, the authors observed that for the population of well-educated mothers they used in their study, “. . . rather than being hijacked by the perturbations in parenting, the well-being of mothers . . . rests as much if not more on the emotional sustenance they receive.” This internet-based study of over 2,000 women found that four sets of personal support predictors had particularly strong associations to mothers’ personal adjustment: feeling unconditionally loved, feeling comforted when distressed, feeling relationships are authentic, and finding satisfaction in friendships.

Experiencing these constructs in relationships can serve a protective function “in the face of adversities ranging from postpartum depression and parenting a child with special needs, to stressors associated with discrimination, military deployment, and family relocation.” As mothers are spending increasing amounts of time devoted to the care of their children, it is essential they also devote time to caring for themselves. As Luthar and Ciciolla state, “[Mothers] must deliberately cultivate and maintain close, authentic, relationships with friends, as well as family” not only for their well-being, but also for the well-being of their children.