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Title: Cultural variations in mother-infant interactions during feeding : a prospective study from birth to six months
Author: Thomas, Anna Mair
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2000
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Feeding is regarded as a major component of maternal care, which structures many of the early interactions between mother and infant. As a nurturing activity, feeding has been regarded as a 'universal' behaviour that is infant driven and therefore less likely to generate culture-specific behaviours. Yet, cultural differences in maternal patterns of behaviour are observable from birth and infants participate at an early age in culturally specific patterns of communication. The aim of the study was to examine variations in mother-infant interactions during feeding in three culturally diverse groups and, specifically, the infant cues of hunger and satiety and the maternal responsiveness to those cues. Primiparous mothers born and educated in Bangladesh and Nigeria, who had recently moved to London, and a group of White UK mothers were recruited during the last trimester of pregnancy from the same hospitals. Mothers and infants were seen at home, when the infants were six weeks, three months and six months old (Bangladeshi; N=21; White UK: N=24; Nigerian: N=23). Video recordings of feeding interactions at the two latter visits were coded using a standardised observation scale (NCAST Feeding Scale, Barnard, 1978) which rates 76 observable features of carer-infant communication during feeding. The impact of confounding factors (maternal age and education, socio-economic status, breast-feeding, maternal psychosocial factors and infant gender and birth weight) on the scores was examined. The infants' weights during the course of the study were also recorded. The mean 'Total' NCAST score, the sum of the 76 individual items that comprise the Scale, differed significantly between groups at both three and six months. Analyses of the subscales ('mother-only' items and 'infant-only' items) identified significant differences between all three groups of mothers on the basis of ethnicity, but fewer differences between the groups of infants. The scoring of the individual items pertaining to the initiation, pacing and termination of the feed differed significantly between the White UK and Bangladeshi mothers, but not between the White UK and Nigerian mothers. In contrast, there were few differences in the behaviour of the infants from all three groups. The results suggest that although the behaviours indicating hunger and satiation may be common to infants, culture is an influence on maternal responsiveness to these cues.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available