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Int J Nurs Stud. 2014 Nov;51(11):1524-37. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2014.06.009. Epub 2014 Jun 19.

Internet-based peer support for parents: a systematic integrative review.

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Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku, Finland. Electronic address:
Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku, Finland.
Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku, Finland; Turku University Hospital, Finland.
VAMK University of Applied Sciences, Vaasa, Finland.



The Internet and social media provide various possibilities for online peer support. The aim of this review was to explore Internet-based peer-support interventions and their outcomes for parents.


A systematic integrative review.


The systematic search was carried out in March 2014 in PubMed, Cinahl, PsycINFO and Cochrane databases.


Two reviewers independently screened the titles (n=1793), abstracts and full texts to decide which articles should be chosen. The inclusion criteria were: (1) an Internet-based community as an intervention, or at least as a component of an intervention; (2) the participants in the Internet-based community had to be mothers and/or fathers or pregnant women; (3) the parents had to interact and communicate with each other through the Internet-based community. The data was analysed using content analysis. When analysing peer-support interventions only interventions developed by researchers were included and when analysing the outcomes for the parents, studies that focused on mothers, fathers or both parents were separated.


In total, 38 publications met the inclusion criteria. Most of the studies focused on Internet-based peer support between mothers (n=16) or both parents (n=15) and seven focused on fathers. In 16 studies, the Internet-based interventions had been developed by researchers and 22 studies used already existing Internet peer-support groups, in which any person using the Internet could participate. For mothers, Internet-based peer support provided emotional support, information and membership in a social community. For fathers, it provided support for the transition to fatherhood, information and humorous communication. Mothers were more active users of Internet-based peer-support groups than fathers. In general, parents were satisfied with Internet-based peer support. The evidence of the effectiveness of Internet-based peer support was inconclusive but no harmful effects were reported in these reviewed studies.


Internet-based peer support provided informational support for parents and was accessible despite geographical distance or time constraints. Internet-based peer support is a unique form of parental support, not replacing but supplementing support offered by professionals. Experimental studies in this area are needed.


Internet; Parental support; Parents; Peer group; Peer support; Review; Social media

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