Could I be pregnant? A study of online adolescent pregnancy forums for social support
Research on adolescent parenthood has found one of the most critical predictors of offspring’s well-being is social support; however, scholars have also found that expectant adolescents sometimes experience a lack of support from their face-to-face networks. Very little research has examined how adolescent parents might make up for this discrepancy by utilizing mediated social networks; therefore, this study aims to fill a gap in the literature by examining how adolescent parents and expectant adolescents utilize online networks for support. One hundred and fifty messages from two online forums of adolescent pregnancy Web sites were content analyzed to examine the type of social support solicited by individual members. Additionally, 150 pairs of messages were examined to determine whether other community members provided the type of support solicited in the original posts. Guided by the optimal matching model, findings revealed informational and emotional support were sought most frequently across the two forums, with few users soliciting esteem, network, and tangible support. A further examination of the responses provided to support seekers revealed these online communities’ members most frequently matched the type of support initially solicited, followed by situations where they provided more support than asked for. Out of all five support types, those original posts that solicited informational or tangible support were most likely to have responses that provided the support type that was requested and even though posters did not necessarily ask for it, community members often provided emotional and esteem support in their responses.