The complex information needs of disadvantaged young first-time mothers : insights into multiplicity of needs

Buchanan, Steven and Jardine, Cara (2020) The complex information needs of disadvantaged young first-time mothers : insights into multiplicity of needs. Journal of Documentation, 76 (6). pp. 1135-1153. ISSN 0022-0418

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    Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to holistically explore the information needs of socioeconomically disadvantaged young first-time mothers and associated issues of complexity. Design/methodology/approach: This paper used survey and semi-structured field interviews with 39 young mothers (aged 15–23) from UK areas of multiple deprivations. Findings: Participants reported multiple and complex needs spanning interrelated topics of parenting, poverty and personal development. In the majority of instances, participants were either unsure of their ability to meet their needs or needed help with needs, and several described situations of considerable anxiety and stress. Multiplicity is identified and conceptualised as an important factor contributing to complexity, including three component elements: simultaneous occurrence of needs (concurrency), relationships between needs (interconnectivity) and evolving needs (fluidity). In various combinations, these elements influenced a mother's actions and/or ability to selectively attend to needs, with multiple needs often competing for attention, and compounding issues of cognitive load and affect. Research limitations/implications: This study draws attention to multiplicity of needs as an understudied topic within human information behaviour and calls for further research into how people recognise and attend to complex needs and influencing factors. Practical implications: This study raises important questions regarding how we approach complexity of information needs in our design and delivery of information systems and services. Originality/value: Evidences disadvantaged young mothers to have more extensive and complex information needs than previously understood, and identifies and conceptualised multiplicity as an important factor contributing to the complexity of information needs during major life transitions such as motherhood.

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