Elaine M. Hernandez, Jessica McCrory Calarco,
Health decisions amidst controversy: Prenatal alcohol consumption and the unequal experience of influence and control in networks,
Social Science & Medicine,
- People aim to avoid stigma by seeking guidance from their networks.
- Yet, health controversies create inconsistent norms, influence, and control.
- We use prenatal alcohol consumption as an example.
- Decisions depended on consistent norms, relative status, and strength of ties.
- People from higher social positions have more power to resist influence/control.
Individuals avoid stigma by looking to members of their networks for guidance on how to behave. Health controversies complicate this process by exposing people to inconsistent norms, influence, and control within their networks.
To understand this process, we meld perspectives on networks and social psychology. Using the case of light/moderate drinking during pregnancy, we examine how people make health decisions in the face of controversy.
Through in-depth interviews with first-time pregnant individuals and their health care providers, we reveal that individuals’ decisions about controversial health behaviors depend on 1) the consistency of the influence and control they encounter, 2) their status relative to enforcers, and 3) the strength of their ties to enforcers. These processes give people from higher social positions more power to resist influence and control.
These findings illuminate how medical recommendations and public health interventions should account for the unequal experience of influence and control within networks.