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Social networking sites (SNS); exploring their uses and associated value for adolescent mothers in Western Australia in terms of social support provision and building social capital
Objective: to explore the use of social networking sites (SNS) by adolescent mothers inWestern Australia (WA) in relation to social support and the building of social capital. Design: a constructionist narrative inquiry approach was employed to guide the research design and processes. Approval was gained from the university human ethics department. Sampling was purposeful and data were collected using in-depth interviews with seven adolescent mothers in WA. Setting: interviews were undertaken within the homes of adolescent mothers across WA. Findings: from within three fundamental domains of social support; tangible, emotional and informational support, provided by SNS use, five key themes were identified from the narratives. ‘Social connectedness’ was identified as a form of tangible support, sometimes termed ‘practical’ or ‘instrumental’ support. This theme incorporates connectedness with family, friends, and peers and across new and existing social groups. Three themes were identified that relate to emotional support; ‘increased parenting confidence’; ‘reduced parental stress’ and ‘enhanced self-disclosure’ afforded by use of SNS. ‘Access to information’ was identified in terms of informational support, with participants often highlighting SNS use as their primary portal for information and advice. Conclusions: the findings of this study suggest that SNS use affords adolescent mothers in WA access to tangible, informational and emotional support and thus is a valuable source of social capital for these mothers. This study provides a platform for further exploration into this phenomenon, and possible implications include the potential for midwives and health care professionals to promote the benefits of SNS use with, and for, this group of mothers, or to incorporate SNS use into modern health care practices to further develop the potential for improved social capital related outcomes for them.