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The everyday life information seeking behaviours of first-time mothers

Katherine Loudon (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)
Steven Buchanan (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)
Ian Ruthven (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 11 January 2016




The purpose of this paper is to investigate 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 combined 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 judgement 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.

Research limitations/implications

There was a notable absence of younger ( < 20 year old) 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.

Practical implications

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 others influence information seeking behaviours. It provides evidence that fear of judgement can influence information seeking behaviour, helping us to understand why some information sources, although considered important and useful, can be used very little.



The authors are grateful to the mothers and staff from the support group and representatives from the local health and library services, who all very generously shared their time and experiences.


Loudon, K., Buchanan, S. and Ruthven, I. (2016), "The everyday life information seeking behaviours of first-time mothers", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 72 No. 1, pp. 24-46.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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