Non-vaccinators just want to fit in

May 24, 2018 by David Stacey, University of Western Australia

A new study by researchers at The University of Western Australia has revealed parents' choices about whether to vaccinate their children are largely influenced by their social networks, with parents often left feeling either validated or marginalised within their communities.

The study, published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, shows how experience tugs towards 'appropriate' forms of vaccination behaviour in their social groups, and how non-vaccination is often viewed as a valued form of capital.

The researchers interviewed parents from two Australian locations with low vaccination rates; Fremantle in WA, and particular postcodes in Adelaide. Parents in those locations were identified as either refusing or delaying recommended vaccines for their children.

Some Fremantle parents were also fully vaccinating, yet remained quiet about it in social interactions with their peers as they believed their decision to vaccinate would attract disapproval.

Dr. Katie Attwell from UWA's School of Social Science said vaccination decisions were linked to broader behaviours around food, school choices and birth practices present in like-minded communities.

"While there were differences between social groups in Fremantle and Adelaide, parents from both locations regarded vaccine questioning and refusal as a marker of distinction among their social groups. Many also believed that they were raising children healthy enough to navigate the world unvaccinated," Dr. Atwell said.

"Parents in Fremantle who accepted vaccines described experiencing alienation from their community. Meanwhile the Adelaide participants, who were initially recruited around an organic market and in many cases were more vehemently opposed to vaccination, found their social groups to be like-minded, and felt that their decisions were validated within them."

"What our study really drew out was how the sociality of vaccine questioning and refusal reflects a certain stage of life where new parents are making new friends. They don't want to risk social criticism when they are seeking acceptance."

The study suggested that pro-vaccine messages, designed by providers, officials or governments, needed to better equip parents who vaccinated to communicate safely about their choices with their peers who didn't vaccinate. This could reflect the fact that new parenting was a vulnerable time for parents as they entered a new phase of life and sought to form new relationships.

"Providing people with effective evidence-based ways to respectfully disagree and introduce new perspectives is an important start in intervening among vaccine-critical social groups," Dr. Attwell said.

The study also considered how parents who vaccinate but were proficient in other practices with high symbolic capital in their groups – such as baby-wearing or infant nutrition – might share this expertise with others as a way of affirming their status within their .

Explore further: Examining the link between vaccine refusal and those who use alternative medicines

Related Stories

Examining the link between vaccine refusal and those who use alternative medicines

November 24, 2017
A new study led by a researcher from The University of Western Australia has analysed the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by parents who reject some or all vaccines for their children.

New insights into vaccination debate

October 18, 2017
Governments wielding a 'big stick' for compliance is unlikely to solve the problem of making parents vaccinate their children.

Targeted approach could sway non-vaccinators

September 18, 2015
A targeted group approach aimed at parents who choose not to vaccinate their children could help overcome resistance, researchers say.

Many doctors don't push HPV shots equally. See who's left out

March 26, 2018
(HealthDay)—Teen boys in the United States are less likely than girls to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) because many doctors don't recommend the shots to boys' parents, researchers say.

How complementary medicine practitioners can help get kids vaccinated

March 28, 2018
Australian parents who take their children to a complementary medicine practitioner such as a naturopath or chiropractor are more likely to delay or reject vaccination, according to our research.

Web-based social media intervention can positively influence parental vaccine behaviors

November 6, 2017
Pregnant women who received vaccine information through an interactive website monitored by a clinical expert were more likely to vaccinate their children than those who did not use the web resource, according to a Kaiser ...

Recommended for you

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...

A holiday gift to primary care doctors: Proof of their time crunch

December 14, 2018
The average primary care doctor needs to work six more hours a day than they already do, in order to make sure their patients get all the preventive and early-detection care they want and deserve, a new study finds.

Teens get more sleep with later school start time, researchers find

December 12, 2018
When Seattle Public Schools announced that it would reorganize school start times across the district for the fall of 2016, the massive undertaking took more than a year to deploy. Elementary schools started earlier, while ...

Large restaurant portions a global problem, study finds

December 12, 2018
A new multi-country study finds that large, high-calorie portion sizes in fast food and full service restaurants is not a problem unique to the United States. An international team of researchers found that 94 percent of ...

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

Yes please to yoghurt and cheese: The new improved Mediterranean diet

December 11, 2018
Thousands of Australians can take heart as new research from the University of South Australia shows a dairy-enhanced Mediterranean diet will significantly increase health outcomes for those at risk of cardiovascular disease ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.