Pressure to Be Perfect Parent Can Discourage New Moms, Dads

Study found it eroded confidence for mothers, created stress for fathers

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FRIDAY, Dec. 2, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- First-time mothers and fathers have a tougher time adapting to their new roles if they believe society expects them to be perfect parents, a new study finds.

Researchers looked at 182 couples who became parents between 2008 and 2010, and found that mothers had less confidence in their parenting abilities and fathers felt more stress when they were more worried about what others thought of their parenting skills.

But, the study found, self-imposed pressure to be perfect was somewhat better for parents, especially fathers.

This may be because the fathers in the study were highly involved in parenting and were motivated by high self-imposed standards. Or it may be because fathers still don't carry the same burden for child care as mothers, the researchers said.

"Trying to be the perfect parent is a mixed bag," study author Meghan Lee, a graduate student in human development and family science at Ohio State University, said in a university news release.

"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," she added.

The study appears online and will be published in a future print issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

The parents in the study were assessed three months after their child was born, so it's possible that the role of perfectionism may change over time, Lee noted.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers tips for parenting your baby.

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, Nov. 30, 2011

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