London: Parents of newborns show poorer adjustment to their new role if they believe that the society expects them to be 'perfect' moms and dads, a new study has claimed.

Meghan Lee, a graduate student in human development and family science at Ohio State University and her team examined 182 couples who became parents between 2008 and 2010.

"Trying to be the perfect parent is a mixed bag," Lee said. "If you think you have to be perfect because of outside pressure, it really hurts adjustment. If you put these demands on yourself, it may have some benefits early on, but it is not universally good," she said.

In the final trimester of the woman's pregnancy, both spouses completed a questionnaire measuring their levels of both societal-oriented and self-imposed parenting perfectionism.

Three months after the birth of their child, the same couples answered questions about their adjustment to their new roles.

The results showed that the parents' perfectionistic tendencies were associated with how well they adjusted. Mothers who had higher levels of societal-oriented perfectionism also tended to have lower levels of self-efficacy about their parenting.

"That means they didn't have as much confidence in their ability to perform their tasks as mothers," Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, co-author of the study, said. For fathers, societal-oriented perfectionism was associated with higher levels of parenting stress.

Self-oriented perfectionism was linked to higher levels of parenting satisfaction for mothers, but it had no effect on their self-efficacy or stress.

"If you think you have to be perfect because of outside pressure, it really hurts adjustment. If you put these demands on yourself, it may have some benefits early on, but it is not universally good," Schoppe-Sullivan said.

The researchers measured and controlled for two personality factors, conscientiousness and neuroticism, that are also linked to parental adjustment. For that reason, the researchers are more confident that parental adjustment is indeed related to perfectionism and not to other factors. The study has been published online in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

(Agencies)