“One of the most distinctive differences between the two groups showed how much more women with higher education valued how scientific information and modern technology could contribute to a healthy pregnancy,” says Bessett. “But instead of a ‘generational disconnect’ they tended to read self-help books along with their mothers who also enjoyed a vicarious engagement with science that they didn’t have when they were pregnant decades ago.”
These mothers recognized that their birth experiences were much different from the medical interventions women have today, so Bessett found they were less likely to try to call the shots or endorse their pregnancy experiences as more appropriate.
“The overarching gain from the study shows how damaging self-help books can be for certain groups who take the ‘generational disconnect’ seriously,” says Bessett. “In a context of considerable health misinformation, we have to understand in what circumstances extended family can be the source of this misinformation and when they provide an important sounding board for expectant parents.
“These books don’t take into account how damaging it can be to sever bonds with their mothers during a time when they need low stress, warm bonding and emotional support more than ever for a healthy pregnancy.”
Conducting future research on grandparents can help to insure that new parents have all the support they need by demonstrating that the “generational disconnect” is not a given and knowledge and investment in pregnancy practices is highly variable, suggests Bessett.
“Medical advice is not always black and white,” she adds. “Doctors and medical personnel who use a more holistic approach and actually listen and really hear their patients, no matter how much they may rely on their mothers, would do more for their [patients’] emotional as well as medical well-being — because sometimes ‘mothers really do know best.’”
Featured image at top: Danielle Bessett's research on the "generational disconnect" looked at how closely women took their mothers' advice during their pregnancies based on their educational level. All photos/DepositPhotos.com