The everyday life information seeking behaviours of first-time mothers

Loudon, Katherine and Buchanan, Steven and Ruthven, Ian (2016) The everyday life information seeking behaviours of first-time mothers. Journal of Documentation, 72 (1). pp. 24-46. ISSN 0022-0418 (

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The study investigates the everyday life information seeking behaviours of first-time mothers, as they encounter new, significant and pressing information needs which arise alongside their new responsibilities. A qualitative approach, combining narrative interviews with participatory methods to facilitate engagement and remain sensitive to the social context. Mothers particularly valued the experiential nature of information received from peers or family members. However, fear of judgment influenced their use of interpersonal sources, both on- and off-line. Their accounts of information seeking contained instances of confusion, tension, conflict, and information overload. Feeling under pressure to be “good mothers”, they withheld information needs from others, including healthcare professionals.  There was a notable absence of younger (<20 y.o.) and/or less educated mothers in the study. This corresponds to previous findings which report that very young mothers are reluctant to participate in support groups with older mothers. They remain an understudied and potentially marginalised group. The findings show how social support groups can mitigate for societal pressures which impact upon mothers’ information behaviour, allowing them to connect and share information within a trusted environment. The study highlights the importance of healthcare and information services professionals remaining sensitive to such pressures. Relatedly, the finding that public libraries are used very little has implications for audience engagement and service provision.  Focused upon first-time mothers’ information behaviours during the early stages of parenthood, the study provides insight into how relationships and experiences with information gatekeepers and others influences information seeking behaviours. Provides evidence that fear of judgment can influence information seeking behaviour, helping us to understand why some information sources, although considered important and useful, can be used very little.