Today I had another interview with one of the volunteers for our project. Something she mentioned to me in our conversation was that she is a private individual. She has no family who live in the area. It’s just her boyfriend and her. She admitted that they have no friends really… no one they share experiences with, commiserate with, and celebrate milestones with. I asked her what encouraged her desire to be private. Pride. She and her boyfriend do not want to make widely known their tough circumstances. She doesn’t want others to feel like she is relying on them for anything that, perhaps, they are also struggling to maintain. While the strong sense of pride is unique among the three interviews I’ve been involved with so far, the lack of a network is not.
My interview with this woman took place shortly after I had read the article on breastfeeding. In this article, Cripe discusses the difference in privileged, educated women/mothers and low-income mothers. She offers a quote from USDHHS that states, “The lowest rates of breastfeeding are found among those whose infants are at the highest risk of poor health and development: those 21 years and under and those with low educational levels.” Cripe also refers to the Healthy People 2010 Report, which states that college graduates (women, of course) demonstrated the highest rates of breastfeeding, with 78 percent breastfeeding after birth and 40 percent still breastfeeding after six months.
Her research examines the experience of breastfeeding mothers through a breastfeeding support group. This, of course, is a network of mothers who actively want to better their understanding of available options and gain knowledge through others’ experience. This is a network for them in this particular area. She didn’t state what SES these participants fell within, but I would venture to guess that the majority of them fell in more the average/middle income bracket.
So, as I write this, my intent it to not provide an explanation, but more so to offer a question that I believe needs more exploration. Does the presence or absence of a social/support network have a significant impact an individual’s ability to negotiate the available resources in their environment and develop a better understanding of (and even increased confidence in) how to successfully utilize those resources?
We all work our way through circumstances because we actively collect feedback from peers and trusted sources who have similar experiences. If this were not the case, then the example that Cripe offered regarding the mothers of the support group who encouraged co-sleeping with their babies (and minimized the doctors warnings against it) would not have led to other mothers feeling more at ease for their choice to do so.
Do families who are food insecure lack social networks more often than those who are food secure? If so, then is this something that needs to be examined more critically? If research has been there and done that already, then please forgive me for my lack of knowledge about it.