Due to its accessibility and anonymity, the Internet is a common way for mothers to find information about parenting concerns. The purpose of this study was to explore the parenting questions posted by mothers on parenting online communities to identify the informational needs of parents with young children. We analyzed 31,565 parenting–related questions posted in October 2019. Text mining was performed using Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) to identify the most common topics in the dataset. Topics were sorted according to infant age group and a keyword network analysis was performed to identify parenting difficulties. In the LDA, 15 topics were found to be the best-fitting model. From these, we identified parenting situations that lead to many questions, the majority of which were focused on basic childcare related to feeding, baby food, sleeping, medical problems, development, and learning. The distribution of the 15 topics varies according to age group. Keyword network analysis showed that mothers had difficulty putting their babies to sleep and stopping them from crying. This study provides useful information to support parenting and makes suggestions for how parenting programs can meet mothers’ needs.
After childbirth, mothers experience maternal role attainment. Mercer (2004) replaced the term, maternal role attainment, with “becoming a mother” (BAM) to suggest that mothers’ growth and process of becoming a mother is continuous. Studies show that it takes approximately-four months from childbirth to maternal identity integration (Mercer, 2004), but even after this period, mothers complain of parenting difficulties as they continue to perform childcare as the baby develops. In particular, mothers with babies under 36 months of age struggle more with parenting. Since children are entirely dependent upon the primary caregiver for daily life during this period and mothers must respond immediately to their babies’ needs, mothers are under stress physically and psychologically (Barlow et al., 2010).
With a rapidly changing society and family nuclearization, parents are entirely responsible for childrearing. It is difficult for parents today to learn about a parent’s role or get immediate help, knowledge, and experience regarding parenting from their families. According to the 2020 Family Status Survey in Korea, 87.4 % of the primary caregivers for infants and toddlers were mothers, indicating that parenting is delegated to mothers of infants and toddlers (Statistics Korea, 2021a). Due to the influence of this social culture, there is the newly created term, ’Dok-Bak parenting’ has been used in Korea. It means that the mothers take care of the children by themself even though they might have a husband (National Institute of Korean Language, 2022). The dedicating responsibility for childcare is dedicated to mothers only. Presently, the total fertility rate in Korea is 0.81 which is the lowest in the world (Statistics Korea, 2021b). This may be owing to the high tendency to avoid childbirth and childcare in recognition of the difficulties and hardships of parenting.
In this study, 15 topics pertaining to parenting informational needs were identified using a text mining technique to explore the contents and phrases in parenting-related question posts by mothers with infants/ toddlers in a representative online pregnancy/childbirth/parenting community in Korea. We found that the most common topics were feeding/eating and sleep issues. In addition, it was demonstrated that mothers had different parenting informational needs depending on the babies’ ages in months. The younger the baby was, the higher was the need for information from mothers. Keyword network analysis showed that mothers had difficulty putting their babies to sleep and stopping them from crying.
Based on the study findings, the following conclusions are drawn. Care providers in clinics and communities should be aware that concerns about feeding/eating and sleep are common among mothers of young children, identify any parenting difficulties, and be able to help them via active intervention. Using existing and well-established social networks as a program venue is beneficial to providing reliable and evidence-informed information to parents. Parents may encounter misinformation in online parenting communities. Therefore, future studies must research whether parenting questions are appropriately answered through comments analysis.