A systematic literature review exploring objectification and motherhood

Journal article


Beech, Olivia Donati, Kaufmann, Leah and Anderson, Joel. (2020). A systematic literature review exploring objectification and motherhood. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 44(4), pp. 521-538. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684320949810
AuthorsBeech, Olivia Donati, Kaufmann, Leah and Anderson, Joel
Abstract

Objectification theory provides a theoretical framework for understanding how socialization and experiences of objectification can lead women to place excessive value on their appearance—a process known as self-objectification. Despite the number of women that are mothers, the application of objectification theory to motherhood has been relatively limited. This review synthesizes the available research exploring objectification during motherhood. We conducted a systematic search for published and unpublished articles that quantitatively examined the objectification of, or self-objectification during, motherhood across five databases in March 2019. The search yielded 23 studies across 20 articles, which in combination revealed strong evidence of societal objectification of mothers and self-objectification by mothers. Effects were found for pregnant and postpartum women, in both community and university samples of mothers. Outcomes included more body shame, concerns about the negative impact of breastfeeding, barriers to breastfeeding, fear of childbirth, disordered eating, and greater appearance concerns in mothers, and sexualized behaviors and body surveillance for their children. Some evidence indicated that self-objectifying may be protective for mothers in certain situations, but it was mostly associated with harmful consequences. Finally, some evidence suggested that there may be age and generational effects of objectification, which may impact all women, including mothers. We hope these findings highlight the benefits for women to engage in healthy relationships with their bodies and to consider the functionality of their body as it changes in preparation for entering motherhood.

Keywordsobjectification; sexual objectification; self-objectification; motherhood; postpartum
Year2020
JournalPsychology of Women Quarterly
Journal citation44 (4), pp. 521-538
PublisherSAGE Publications Inc.
ISSN0361-6843
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684320949810
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85089991256
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range521-538
Publisher's version
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All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online27 Aug 2020
Publication process dates
Deposited01 Jul 2021
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