The complex information needs of disadvantaged young first-time mothers: insights into multiplicity of needs


Buchanan S & Jardine C (2020) The complex information needs of disadvantaged young first-time mothers: insights into multiplicity of needs. Journal of Documentation, 76 (6), pp. 1135-1153.

Purpose: to holistically explore the information needs of socioeconomically disadvantaged young first-time mothers, and associated issues of complexity. Design/methodology: survey and semi-structured field interviews with 39 young mothers (aged 15-23) from UK areas of multiple deprivations. Findings: participants reported multiple and complex needs spanning interrelated topics of parenting, poverty, and personal development. In the majority of instances, participants were either unsure of their ability to meet their needs, or needed help with needs; and several described situations of considerable anxiety and stress. Multiplicity is identified and conceptualised as an important factor contributing to complexity, including three component elements: simultaneous occurrence of needs (concurrency), relationships between needs (interconnectivity), and evolving needs (fluidity). In various combinations, these elements influenced a mothers’ actions and/or ability to selectively attend to needs, with multiple needs often competing for attention, and compounding issues of cognitive load and affect. Research limitations/implications: draws attention to multiplicity of needs as an understudied topic within human information behaviour, and calls for further research into how people recognise and attend to complex needs, and influencing factors. Practical implications: raises important questions regarding how we approach complexity of information needs in our design and delivery of information systems and services. Originality/value: evidences disadvantaged young mothers to have more extensive and complex information needs than previously understood; and identifies and conceptualises multiplicity as an important factor contributing to complexity of information needs during major life transitions such as motherhood.

Information behavior; information need; health communication; health education; mothers.

Journal of Documentation: Volume 76, Issue 6

FundersEconomic and Social Research Council
Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online30/04/2020
Date accepted by journal28/02/2020