This exploratory qualitative study examined the influence of injunctive and descriptive norms on breastfeeding, a health-improving behaviour related to a highly committed personal decision. The research explores the different mechanisms through which social norms impact breastfeeding behaviour pre or post-adoption of breastfeeding practice.A qualitative approach was used by performing in-depth analysis of cross-sectional accounts of women in Lebanon contemplating adoption of breastfeeding practice and women who already breastfed. Interviews were also conducted with medical professionals, lactation specialists, and breastfeeding activists.On one hand, the attitude of the medical professionals and the government efforts are two mechanisms that stimulate the injunctive norms. On the other hand, the descriptive norms are defined by community attitude aggregated with societal beliefs and expectations on women's image and role in society. Both types of social norms are in constant interplay with personal norms and each type becomes more salient at different periods over time.The findings suggest that social norms are major determinants of breastfeeding behaviour. The influence of the type of social norm—descriptive or injunctive—on the decision to breastfeed varies according to the moment of life the mother is living. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
Appetite – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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