PERSONAL ATTITUDES OR STRUCTURAL FACTORS? A CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF BREASTFEEDING DURATION

Authors


  • Nita Mary McKinley, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, Tacoma; Janet Shibley Hyde, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin–Madison.

  • This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health Grant No. MH44340 to Janet Hyde and Marilyn Essex, with Marjorie Klein and Roseanne Clark. Developmental phases of this work were funded by the University of Wisconsin Graduate School and the Wisconsin Psychiatric Research Institute. Special thanks are extended to the project staff, Will Shattuck, Laura Haugen, Nancy Smider, Francine Horton, and Ashby Plant, and to the Wisconsin Survey Research Laboratory and its staff. Rosalind Barnett and Joseph Pleck were helpful consultants to the project in its early stages.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Nita Mary McKinley, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington Tacoma, Box 358436, 1900 Commerce Street, Tacoma, WA 98402. E-mail: nmmckin@u.washington.edu

Abstract

A personal attitudes model (i.e., infant feeding choices are based on personal attitudes primarily) and a structural factors model (i.e., feeding choices are shaped by the structural contexts of women's lives, as much as personal attitudes) of women's breastfeeding behavior were tested by surveying a longitudinal sample of 548 mostly European American women recruited for the Wisconsin Maternity Leave and Health Project. Personal attitudes (enjoyment of breastfeeding, gender-role attitudes, and work and family salience) accounted for half as much variance in breastfeeding duration for women who were employed outside the home compared to those who were not. For women employed outside the home, both structural variables (length of maternity leave and workplace flexibility) and personal attitudes predicted duration. These results have implications for how we construct the issue of women's breastfeeding decisions.

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