Buchanan S (2020) Getting it right first time: understanding and supporting the information needs of disadvantaged young first-time mothers [Public report for UK Economic and Social Research project ES/L012634/1]. Public report for UK Economic and Social Research project ES/L012634/1. Economic and Social Research Council.
This work sought to better understand the information needs of young mothers from UK areas of multiple deprivations, their information seeking behaviours, and influencing factors.
Information informs, guides, and empowers; but barriers to use can be societally divisive, particularly amongst disadvantaged groups. There are complex access barriers and internalised behavioural barriers to consider, the former influenced by technology and media literacy issues, the latter by social structures and norms; barriers that can put young mothers, and in turn their children, at risk of living a stratified and disengaged existence within a small information world, and at heightened risk of negative health outcomes and poor life prospects.
Through the voices of the young mothers and their support workers, this report provides significant insight into the factors influencing effective information interactions with young mothers, and reminds us of the importance of holistic personalised approaches to health and social care in the problematic context.
We observed and participated in multiple support groups, and visited mothers in their homes. Via surveys, interviews, and focus groups involving 62 mothers we gained in-depth insight into their information needs, and the factors influencing how their needs are met (or not). We also observed young mother interactions with support workers, and via interviews and focus groups with 54 support workers, gained insight into the challenges of health communication and education in disadvantaged circumstances, and the factors contributing to effective interactions with mothers.
In summary, four key findings are reported: the information needs of young mothers are complex: interpersonal information sources are important; use of State provided digital health and care services is low; and an important information intermediary role is evident in community support workers. In relation, four key recommendations are made: the design of health and social care systems for young mothers should recognise and support their holistic information needs; the primary form of health and social care communication to young mothers should be interpersonal and interactive; community based ‘bridges’ are required to encourage young mother use of state provided digital health and social care services; and community based approaches to health literacy education are needed to develop independent life skills in young mothers.
This major study of human information behaviour advances our understanding of effective methods of health communication and education amongst an at-risk group, and contributes to the important discussion of how state and third sector services can support disadvantaged young mothers and their children to prosper in the digital age.
Human Information Behaviour, Information Need, Health Communication, Health Education, Mothers, Motherhood.