Behaviours of young mothers from areas of deprivation; implications for health promotion and cancer prevention


  • L. Hackshaw-McGeagh
  • K. Jamie
  • R. Beynon
  • R. O'Neill


Background: Evidence suggests younger mothers may have poorer health behaviours, and subsequently increased cancer risk. We aimed to better understand the health behaviours of younger mothers and the factors that influence their lifestyle choices, in order to improve cancer prevention and health promotion in this population. Methods: A photo-elicitation approach was used, where young mothers (n=27; aged 16-24 years), recruited predominantly from areas of deprivation in three UK cities, were provided with cameras and asked to capture ‘a week in your life’. Photographs were developed and participants invited to an initial focus group where photographs were used to elicit discussion exploring participants’ health behaviours. Data were thematically analysed to identify key themes, particularly those relating to barriers and facilitators of positive health behaviours and cancer. Participants were invited to a second focus group, to explore and validate identified themes further. Findings: Themes emerged from the data, relating to: 1) the mothers’ personal perceptions of health, 2) health-related behaviours, and 3) beliefs about cancer and its causes. Barriers to positive health behaviours included a lack of money, childcare and cookery skills; facilitators included social media, commercial weight loss programmes and local community organisations. Discussion: This research provides an evidence base to inform future health-related research in young mothers, particularly relating to cancer prevention interventions. Traditional health psychology models of behaviour change and health promotion would need to be adapted, by drawing on this evidence base, in order to engage this population and motivate prolonged positive health behaviours.





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