Exploring the information behaviours of younger mothers

“I don't even know what to look for”: exploring the information behaviours of younger mothers

Becoming a parent can be an exciting, but also uncertain and challenging time. New parents often have many questions about their baby and their new lives, but knowing where to find information which can be trusted can be difficult. This is particularly the case for younger mothers, who as well as becoming a parent, may also be leaving school, finding their first home, looking for work or entering higher education. While information informs, guides and empowers, there are also ingrained and persistent barriers to access and use which are societally divisive and currently poorly understood.

To understand these barriers better, and how they might be overcome, researchers at the University of Strathclyde have begun a major study examining the risk of “information poverty” among mothers under the age of 25. The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is exploring:

  • the information needs of younger mothers
  • where this group go to find information both physical and digital
  • potential barriers to accessing information
  • strategies to help parents access information and to prosper in the digital age

The research team is working with a range of public and third sector organisations throughout central Scotland, including partnerships with Glasgow City libraries and Barnardo’s Scotland, to engage with parents and practitioners to explore these issues. So far, more than 25 young women and 49 professionals have shared their views and experiences with us. Their accounts convey the many different circumstances of younger parents, and the diverse range of information needs these can create. These stories also challenge assumptions that all young people are “digital by default”, and have highlighted the central role of that supportive professionals play in helping parents find, and use, the information that is key to achieving their future goals and aspirations.

Initial findings suggest that parents experience a range of challenges when looking for information, such as:

  • “information overload”
  • navigating the complex systems to access entitlements such as Child Benefit
  • practical problems such as limited internet access
  • literacy difficulties, and
  • lacking the confidence to ask questions.

To explore potential digital solutions to these problems, the research team has also developed a prototype open access digital directory that seeks to simplify access to key trusted digital resources, which can be found on our website. We are also undertaking an analysis of online parenting forums to explore if these can provide a space for finding information parents may not otherwise be able to access.  

The data-collection phase of the project is ongoing to March 2017, with early findings likely to be available from summer 2017. The research team is happy to hear from anyone with an interest in this topic, whether as a professional or as a parent.  If you would like to get in touch or know more about the project, please email cara.jardine@strath.ac.uk, visit the project website at https://yftm.cis.strath.ac.uk, find us on Facebook @YoungPinfoP, or follow us on Twitter @YM_InfoPoverty