Majority of moms ‘shamed’ by others for parenting choices, poll finds

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A majority of moms have been shamed by others for various ways in which they’ve chosen to raise their children, a new poll finds.

Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a poll with 475 mothers across the U.S. who have a child 5 years old or younger, hoping to gauge the prevalence of criticism as it pertains their parenting style.

Mother holding new baby
A new poll finds that six in 10 mothers have been shamed for their parenting decisions, with most criticism coming from their own parents.

The poll found that six in 10 participants reported being criticized about some aspect of their parenting style, whether it be their discipline or willingness to breastfeed.

“Our findings tap into the tensions moms face when parenting advice leads to more stress than reassurance and makes them feel more criticized than supported,” says poll co-director Sarah Clark in a university news release.

The most common criticism that mothers received about their mode of parenting was related to their discipline (70 percent), followed by diet and nutrition (52 percent), sleep (46 percent), feeding methods (39 percent), safety (20 percent), and childcare (16 percent).

A mother’s own parents (37 percent) were the party most frequently critical of her parenting style, followed by her spouse (36 percent) and in-laws (31 percent), respectively.

If you’d thought that women were more likely to receive criticism from friends or even random people in public, the poll may surprise you. Only 14 percent reported being shamed by friends and 12 percent in a random encounter in public. Seven percent said they’d been condemned by a commenter on social media.

The criticism didn’t typically fall on deaf ears, with 42 percent of mothers expressing that the comments they’d received had made them doubt their performance as a parent. This insecurity prompted a number of moms to proactively try to improve their parenting (e.g., by conducting research or consulting the help of a healthcare professional).

“Mothers can get overwhelmed by so many conflicting views on the ‘best’ way to raise a child,” says Clark. “Unsolicited advice — especially from the people closest to her child — can be perceived as meaning she’s not doing a good job as a mother. That can be hurtful.”

The researchers noted that it’s common for moms to not know the best practices for raising a young child, particularly because there are so many differing views on the matter.

Supporting this notion of an overflow of ideas was the finding that 62 percent of moms felt they got counterproductive advice from others.

An additional half of respondents said that they simply avoided individuals who were overly-critical of their parenting.

The poll results were published in a report on the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital’s website.


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