Social Comparison in Medically High-Risk Pregnant Women1


  • 1

    This research was supported in part by National Institutes of Health Biomedical Research Support Grant funding (S07RR0706726). The second author received support from NIH Grant 5R29NR03443 during work on this project. We wish to thank Valerie Parisi, Bruce Meyer, Robert Barbieri, Anita Kaminer, Joan Quigley, Marianne Tinkla, and the staff of the Stony Brook Pregnancy Project. We are especially grateful to the women who participated in this research.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Marci Lobel, Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11794-2500.


The present study examined social comparison processes in 147 pregnant women at high risk of incurring an adverse birth outcome such as fetal loss or preterm delivery. These women typically undergo physical and psychological changes which elevate uncertainty and distress. Theoretically derived hypotheses concerning the impact of threat, self-esteem, perceived control, age, and gravidity (previous pregnancy) on social comparison were tested. Women experiencing low pregnancy-related threat and those with higher self-esteem were more likely to compare themselves favorably to other pregnant women. Younger women who had not been pregnant before compared most frequently; comparisons of physical state were more common than comparisons of emotional well-being or interpersonal relationships. Results are contrasted with social comparison processes in other populations facing stressful life events.