Social networks and female reproductive choices in the developing world: a systematized review

Posted by Share-Net NL on January 12, 2015 at 3:12 am

Continuing high global maternal mortality and morbidity rates in developing countries have resulted in an increasing push to improve reproductive health services for women. Seeking innovative ways for assessing how positive health knowledge and behaviors spread to this vulnerable population has increased the use of social network theories and analysis in health promotion research. Despite the increased research on social networks and health, no overarching review on social networks and maternal health literature in developing countries has been conducted. This paper attempts to synthesize this literature by identifying both published and unpublished studies in major databases on social networks and maternal and child health. This review examined a range of study types for inclusion, including experimental and non-experimental study designs including randomized controlled trials, non-randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental, cohort studies, case control studies, longitudinal studies, and cross-sectional observational studies. Only those that occurred in developing countries were included in the review. Eighteen eligible articles were identified; these were published between 1997 and 2012. The findings indicated that the most common social network mechanisms studied within the literature were social learning and social influence. The main outcomes studied were contraceptive use and fertility decisions. Findings suggest the need for continuing research on social networks and maternal health, particularly through the examination of the range of social mechanisms through which networks may influence health behaviors and knowledge, and the analysis of a larger variety of reproductive outcomes.

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