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The relationship between culture, social support, and the utilization of prenatal care

26 July 1999


A well-established body of literature indicates a very strong relationship between prenatal care practices and pregnancy outcome. Related research suggests that Mexican American women as a group tend to be the least likely to follow recommended prenatal care practices, and yet they also have some of the lowest rates of pregnancy complications. The purpose of this dissertation's research was to test the hypothesis that the importance Mexican American women place on their social support network is a significant intervening variable in their ability to. achieve minimal complications during their pregnancies. It was hypothesized that (1) there would be a positive correlation between social support and use of recolIl1hended care practices by Caucasian women; (2) there would be a negative correlation between increased social support and use of care practices by Mexican American women; and (3) there would be a positive correlation between level of acculturation and use of recommended care practices among Mexican American women. Thirty-nine Mexican American and 25 Caucasian pregnant women were recruited from obstetrical care facilities in Southern New Mexico for participation. Social support was measured using the Norbeck Social .Support Questionnaire (Norbeck, 1981/1983) and acculturation was estimated using the Bidimensional Acculturation Scale for Hispanics (Marin & Gamba, 1996). The Medical Care Index (Kessner et al., 1973) and a chart review were used to assess the degree to which participants followed care recommendations. Participants were placed into one of three categories: Mexican Americans who followed recommendations, Mexican Americans who did not, and Caucasians who did follow recommended prenatal care practices. Analyses of the groups' differences in social support scores were conducted. The Caucasian group was dropped from most analyses as they were not felt to be comparable on a number of different demographic variables. Therefore, the first hypothesis could not be tested. The second hypothesis was not supported. However, a non-significant trend in social support indicated better overall social support among the Mexican American women with intermediate or inadequate care compared to those with adequate care. A number of factors discussed in the dissertation suggest that this hypothesis merits further study. The third hypothesis was not supported. A discussion of the results was followed by recommendations for future research.


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