A new study from the UBC Sauder School of Business found that in addition to the social pressures of rearing a child, social media and advertising is a significant motivator for wanting to start a family.
“Advertising and social media play an important role in how we view the world. In general, what we see on Instagram and Facebook are positive portrayals of parenthood, with #blessed and #bestkidsever,” says co-author and associate professor Dr. Lisa Cavanaugh in a press release.
In fact, Cavanaugh notes that people rarely post about the unglamorous side of parenting.
“How often do we see parents post #mykidsareterrible?”
The goal of the study, according to Cavanaugh, was to see if pictures of children could impact someone’s desire to become a parent.
Indifferent to the unglamorous parenting life
The findings were from a series of four studies, involving nearly 2,000 young adults between 18 and 35 with no children. In one of the studies, a group of participants were shown ads with a happy parent and child, while another was shown the same picture without the kid.
Participants who saw images of a happy family had a 22 per cent stronger desire to become parents, compared to the other group. They also reported more empathic emotions like tenderness, sympathy and affection.
In a second study, researchers focus on the impact of seeing advertisement with misbehaving children and frustrated parents. They divided the participants in three groups: one viewing an ad with happy family pictures, another observing an ad with the unglamorous side of parenting, and the last group looking only at the featured product without the family.
The most interesting finding was that the second group who saw images with misbehaving kids did not see their desire wane — the negative portrayals of parenting had no effect on their baby fevers.
“These are people who don’t yet have children, so it could be they see the comedy in kids behaving badly. When it’s not you trying to clean up the mess or get a child to eat before you go to work, it can be humorous,” says Cavanaugh.
The power of social media and baby fever
Another highlight of the study was from the first group who saw glamorous, positive portrayals of child rearing. Their empathic emotions and desires to have children remained high three days after seeing the pictures.
“That may not sound like a big deal at first, but consider the constant drip of images in our social media feeds,” says Cavanaugh, pointing to the power of social media and advertisements on life-changing decisions like becoming a parent.
“People are regularly seeing images of their friends’ kids along with plenty of celebrity parent pics posted on social media, and the effect could accumulate over time.”