The relationship between a woman's personal birth preference and her perceptions of new mothers with different birthing methods : a test of cognitive dissonance theory


Previous research has explored whether method of childbirth, such as home birth, hospital birth, or cesarean section, influences a woman's birth experience (Felming, Ruble, Anderson, & Flett, 1988). However, the influence of the child birth method on social perceptions of the mothers has yet to be explored. Social support for new mothers is an important factor in promoting postpartum adjustment (Collins, Dunkel Schetter, Lobel & Scrimshaw, 1993; Demyttenaere, Lenaerts, Nijs & Van Assche, 1995; Landy, Montgomery & Walsh, 1989). Yet it is possible that the amount of social support a new mother receives is affected by unseen biases regarding the method of childbirth. The current study explores whether mothers more negatively view other mothers who had a method of childbirth different from their own preferred method of childbirth. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three vignettes describing a new mother. One version describes a mother who had a hospital birth with an epidural, one describes a mother who had a home birth with a midwife, and one describes a mother who had a non-emergency scheduled cesarean section. Participants completed the Interpersonal Adjective Scale (IAS) and a Perception of Character Scale to assess their perceptions of the mother. Participants who preferred to have a home birth showed a high degree of variation in their ratings of the hypothetical mothers' dominance and submissiveness as a function of her birth method whereas participants who preferred to have their children in the hospital showed little variation in their ratings of the mothers' assurance and submissiveness.

Participants who preferred to have their children in a hospital rated the hypothetical mother lower on perception of character than participants who preferred to have their children at home.


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Thesis Completion





Mottarella, Karen


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences

Degree Program



Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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