“Not the Romantic, All Happy, Coochy Coo Experience”: A Qualitative Analysis of Interactions on an Irish Parenting Web Site


School of Psychology, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland (ellen.brady@ucdconnect.ie).


Support groups in online communities provide an anonymous place to exchange information and advice. Previous research has suggested that these groups offer a safe, nonjudgmental forum for new parents to share experiences and interact anonymously. This study investigated how participants in online parenting groups experience support via the Internet and what types of support they receive. All posts made over a 2-week period on the parenting-related discussion boards of an Irish parenting Web site were analyzed using content and thematic analyses. Exploratory, semistructured interviews were also conducted with 2 forum participants to discuss their experience of using the Web site. Themes uncovered from the data gathered included the attempts by posters to dispel the myths surrounding motherhood and the recognition of the superiority of the mother as caregiver. The results revealed that the parenting Web site was seen as a safe, supportive space, in which mothers could develop an enhanced frame of reference in which to better understand the role of parenting. The role of online support groups as a viable solution to the decreasing social networks created by modern society is discussed, along with the implications of the findings for future practice and research.