"Information informs, guides, and empowers; but persistent barriers to access and use are societally divisive and as yet not fully understood, particularly amongst marginalised groups. Addressing enduring issues of information poverty, this project seeks to better understand the information needs of young first time mothers (YFTM) aged 21 or under from deprived areas, and associated barriers, by identifying and better understanding the: everyday information needs, seeking preferences, and challenges of YFTM; and the +/- factors influencing YFTM engagement with supportive services, and the appropriate assistive intervention points and methods.
The UK has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe, with associated conception rates correlated to multiple deprivation indexes. At risk groups are disadvantaged and disengaged, with significant health and wellbeing issues reported for both mother and child. Intervention programmes focus on early parenting needs with on-going holistic educational support considered key to long-term social inclusion/reintegration; however, there is evidence that mainstream services are failing to provide such support with significant unmet YFTM information needs reported, and overarching concerns raised regarding equity of access to information in both the physical and digital space.
A significant challenge in addressing holistic YFTM information needs relates to our limited understanding of young peoples' everyday information needs, preferences and seeking behavior generally, and more specifically, in impoverished and/or marginalized circumstances (limiting effective tailored service design and delivery considered key to access and use). There are complex and as yet not fully understood access barriers and internalised behavioural barriers to consider, the former influenced by digital divide and information literacy issues, the latter by social structures and norms; barriers that we believe put YFTM, and in turn their children, at greater risk of becoming impoverished information outsiders, living a stratified and disengaged existence. This project, recognising the importance of information access to economic and social mobility, and health and wellbeing; will comprehensively identify and investigate YFTM information needs, seeking preferences and challenges, and advance our understanding of the +/- factors influencing engagement of marginalised groups in both the physical and digital space, including appropriate assistive intervention points and strategies to not only meet immediate needs, but to foster independent lifelong learning and on-going social inclusion. Output will guide both policy (what to provide and from whom) and process (how to provide) of public information service providers (including collaborative aspects).
This project, which will bring together theories of social capital and social networks with theories and models of information behaviour to address issues of information poverty in both the physical and digital space; aligns with ESRC strategic priority influencing behaviour and informing interventions, and associated questions: how to understand behaviour and risks at multiple levels and a variety of contexts; how and why do behaviours change; and how does the interplay of child, family, community and wider society influence inequalities in wellbeing?"