UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Young Parents’ Personal and Social Information Contexts for Child Feeding Practices : An Ethnographic Study in British Columbia, Canada O'Brien, Heather, 1977-; Greyson, Devon; Shoveller, Jean; Chabot, Cathy


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to utilize McKenzie’s two-dimensional model of information practices to situate child feeding practices as complex, socially situated information practices. Further, the authors examined a host of contextual factors (financial, physical, and social) that enabled and constrained information practices within the tightly controlled environment that defines the lives of young parents (YPs). Design/methodology/approach: Methods of investigation were ethnographic in nature and data collection methods included naturalistic observation and interviews in two communities in British Columbia, Canada over a period of several years. Data collection and analysis was ongoing. During the initial stages of data analysis, a conventional approach to content analysis was used to identify key concepts, preliminary themes, and illustrative examples. Working within the broader category of child feeding practices, the authors used a constant comparative process of directed content analysis to identify subthemes, namely, distinct physical, social, and financial influences on child feeding practices. Findings: The YPs in this study described negotiating breastfeeding, formula feeding, and the introduction of solid foods within a heavily surveilled atmosphere with different and conflicting levels of support and information. The findings demonstrated that active seeking by YPs was often discouraged by authorities, and more passive practices of information encountering and receipt of information from proxies were accepted and expected. Research limitations/implications: This study used McKenzie’s two-dimensional model to paint a richer picture of YPs’ information practices and their physical, geographical, financial, and social contexts. Practical implications: These findings suggests that child feeding informational support should, rather than being prescriptive, take into account the complexities of YPs’ relationships and daily lives, as well as the social structures that shape their experiences as parents. Social implications: Child feeding practices are influenced by a host of physical, financial, and social factors, and are situated within familial and education environments, as well as broader social and policy discourses. Originality/value: This research utilized McKenzie’s two-dimensional model of information practices with a sample of YPs. Evidence suggested that child feeding practices were informed by active seeking, active scanning, non-directed monitoring, and by proxy, but these manifested differently for YPs than for the older expectant mothers upon whom McKenzie’s original model was derived. Using ethnographic methods, the authors situated child feeding practices as complex information practices that are informed by conflicting information, physical, social, and financial factors and intensive parenting ideologies. This reinforces the need for information science researchers to understand contextual factors that influence practices.

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