It is widely acknowledged that women with children require high levels of social support to promote their, and their children’s, health and wellbeing. However, studies on social support often take overly narrow Western perspectives, leading to biased understandings of support and its impact on maternal-child health. We know social support is complex, coming in different forms and from different sources, influenced by environmental context. In this multidisciplinary special issue, we explore social support from different perspectives: While Western norms assume that childcare comes under the responsibility of mothers, in reality, childrearing is widely shared and supported in different ways across societies. Overall, a multidisciplinary approach deepens our understanding of social support and its consequences for mothers and children.
I have written a blog on the importance of social support for mothers and children for LSHTM Expert Opinion.
SPECIAL ISSUE OVERVIEW
PART I: UNDERSTANDING THE NEED FOR MOTHER-INFANT SUPPORT
The male breadwinner nuclear family is not the ‘traditional’ human family, and promotion of this myth may have adverse health consequences. By Rebecca Sear.
Who actually cares for children in slums? Why we need to think, and do, more about paid childcare in urbanizing sub-Saharan Africa. By Robert C Hughes et al.
PART II: SUPPORTING PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH
Male partner participation in maternity care and social support for childbearing women: a discussion paper. By Marina AS Daniele
Shaping birth: variation in the birth canal and the importance of inclusive obstetric care. By Lia Betti
‘She come like a sister to me’: a qualitative study of volunteer social support for disadvantaged women in the transition to motherhood in England. By Jenny McLeish and Maggie Redshaw
PART III: SUPPORTING MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH
Validating social support and prioritizing maternal wellbeing: beyond intensive mothering and maternal responsibility. By Kirsty Budds.
Preventing postnatal depression: a causal mediation analysis of a 20-year preconception cohort. By Elizabeth A Spry et al.
Perinatal depression in migrant and refugee women on the Thai–Myanmar border: does social support matter? By Gracia Fellmeth et al.
PART IV: SUPPORTING MATERNAL PHYSICAL HEALTH
Children are important too: juvenile playgroups and maternal childcare in a foraging population, the Agta. By Abigail E Page et al.
Does maternal grandmother’s support improve maternal and child nutritional health outcomes? Evidence from Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. By Adriana Vázquez-Vázquez et al.
Social support, nutrition and health among women in rural Bangladesh: complex tradeoffs in allocare, kin proximity and support network size. By Mary K Shenk et al.
PART V: SUPPORTING INFANT FEEDING
Relatively speaking? Partners’ and family members’ views and experiences of supporting breastfeeding: a systematic review of qualitative evidence. By Yan-Shing Chang et al.
The differential role of practical and emotional support in infant feeding experience in the UK. By Sarah Myers, Abigail E. Page and Emily H. Emmott.
PART VI: SUPPORTING CHILD SURVIVAL AND DEVELOPMENT
Childcare support and child social development in Japan: investigating the mediating role of parental psychological condition and parenting style. By Masahito Morita, Atsuko Saito, Mari Nozaki and Yasuo Ihara.
Children’s fingernail cortisol among BaYaka foragers of the Congo Basin: associations with fathers’ roles. By Lee T Gettler et al.
Was Cinderella just a fairy tale? Survival differences between stepchildren and their half-siblings. By Ryan Schacht, Huong Meeks, Alison Fraser and Ken R Smith.