Health Decisions Amidst Controversy: Prenatal Alcohol Consumption and the Unequal Experience of Influence and Control in Networks
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, the authors meld perspectives on networks and social psychology. Using the case of low dose (also referred as light/ “moderate) alcohol use during pregnancy, the authors 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, this study reveals that individuals’ decisions about controversial health behaviors depend on
- The consistency of the influence and control they encounter,
- Their status relative to enforcers, and
- 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.