Navigating Newborns: A Qualitative Analysis of Medical Authority, Healthcare Utilization, and Parenting Education among New Mothers Open Access

Merino, Yesenia Magaly (2013)

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The importance of early parenting behaviors as they relate to child development and subsequent adult health outcomes is becoming increasingly recognized. Remarkably little is known about the mechanisms through which new parents acquire and implement information during the parental role adoption period. Understanding the roles of information and communication in the parental decision-making process is of vital importance to the appropriate development of parenting interventions and has implications for health outcomes well into the life course. This qualitative study explores the roles of information and communication in determining parenting behaviors during parental role adoption through a series of focus groups conducted with first-time mothers.

Central to maternal behaviors is individual maternal efficacy. Mothers indicated that their own parenting knowledge and efficacy were buttressed by the collective parenting knowledge of those within their social environment. When the knowledge of those closest to them was exhausted, or when it did not provide answers to their satisfaction, new mothers turned to the most readily available healthcare resources for guidance. This navigation between individual, social, and medical parenting recommendations happened within a social environment that medicalizes childbirth and parenting, granting health professionals authority to shape parenting behaviors. This can inadvertently undermine collective parenting knowledge and maternal efficacy.

Parenting is a complex psychosocial phenomenon enveloped within a multitude of inconsistent and at times conflicting information. Maternal role adoption and daily infant care are mediated by a new mother's relationship with medical authority. Additionally, socioeconomic status moderates the effectiveness of patient-provider interactions. Medical assumptions of parental efficacy create a perpetual knowledge deficit wherein the mother will fall short of knowledge, skill, and medically imposed parenting expectations for the extent to which she fails to submit to medical authority. This notion is directly in opposition to many of the current practices within health education and communication that provide only the most basic health information in an effort to reach a common denominator of need. Health professionals must consider how their interactions may both create and fail to appropriately meet the parenting education needs of first-time mothers.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
I. Introduction 1
Theoretical Framework 2
II. Review of Literature 5
The Importance of Parenting Behaviors in Utero and Early in Life 5
Parenthood Transition and Role Adoption 8
Mechanisms of Parenting Education and Socialization 9
Combining Theories to Improve Understanding 13
III. Research Methods 17
Study Design 17
Sampling 19
Recruitment 20
Table 1: Sample Demographics 21
Data Collection 22
Data Analysis 23
IV. Results 25
Figure 1: Sociomedical Factors Influencing Maternal Behaviors 26
Maternal Efficacy 29
Collective Knowledge 30
Healthcare Utilization 33
Medical Authority 34
Table 2: Summary of Findings 38
Sociocontextual Considerations 40
V. Discussion 44
Strengths and Limitations 49
References 51

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