The Role of Social Comparisons in Perceived Parental Competence, Mental Health, and Relationship Satisfaction
Date of Submission
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP
Susan Panichelli Mindel, PhD
David Festinger, PhD
Karen Dickinson, PhD
The theory of social comparison suggests that all individuals are naturally driven to evaluate and compare their opinions and abilities with those of similar others to varying degrees. Social comparison behavior is associated with negative outcomes impacting mental health and relationship satisfaction, with the prevalence of social-media use providing an increased opportunity to engage in social comparisons. Most of the research on the impact of this behavior has been conducted with young-adult populations, overlooking other populations, such as parents. The limited research in this area suggests that parents, particularly mothers, who engage in social comparisons experience increased depression, are less satisfied in their parenting relationships, and have lower perceived parental competence. In addition, parents may be more susceptible to engaging in social comparisons because research suggests that times of stress and change, such as becoming a parent, increase social comparison behavior. The current study examines how engaging in social comparisons impacts mental health, relationship satisfaction, and perceived parental competence within a parent population. Of the participants, 184 met the inclusion criteria and completed a survey. Results indicate that parents who reported a higher frequency of engaging in social comparisons reported less parental competence, higher symptoms of social and generalized anxiety, and higher levels of depression. Upward and downward social comparisons are associated with generalized and social anxiety, and depression. No statistically significant results were found for frequency or direction of social comparisons impacting relationship satisfaction. Clinical implications of the findings and future directions are discussed.
Caverly, Sarah T., "The Role of Social Comparisons in Perceived Parental Competence, Mental Health, and Relationship Satisfaction" (2019). PCOM Psychology Dissertations. 530.