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Risk, morality and emotion: social media responses to pregnant women who smoke


Hookway, N and Elmer, S and Frandsen, M, Risk, morality and emotion: social media responses to pregnant women who smoke, Health, Risk and Society, 19, (5-6) pp. 246-259. ISSN 1369-8575 (2017) [Refereed Article]

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© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

DOI: doi:10.1080/13698575.2017.1385731


In this article, we use qualitative data to examine the shape and nature of the online ‘moral outrage’ that was directed at a research trial that used financial incentives to encourage pregnant mothers to quit smoking. Mai Frandsen developed the research trial in Tasmania, a small island state in Australia characterised by high rates of smoking in pregnancy. In this article, we draw on data from 121 online text comments posted in relation to three Australia-wide media stories relating to the research trial in 2015. Two of the online stories came from popular Australian independent ‘mummy’ website ‘Mamamia’. We found that the intense negative moral judgement directed at the programme and the women it benefited was driven by an individualised risk discourse drawing on ideologies of the ‘good’ and ‘intensive’ mother. We argue in this article that the over-emphasis on risk in relation to pregnancy produces a conservative morality that demonise women, fails to account for the social determinants of health and diminishes care for the Other. We argue that the research programme with its incentive component was a useful alternative to more punitive risk approaches as it promoted reward rather than blame and shame and acknowledged the importance of including emotions and morality in analysing the relationship between risk, health and society.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Neoliberalism, intensive mothering, pregnancy, smoking, social media, incentives
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Public health
Research Field:Health promotion
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health)
Objective Field:Women's and maternal health
UTAS Author:Hookway, N (Dr Nicholas Hookway)
UTAS Author:Elmer, S (Associate Professor Shandell Elmer)
UTAS Author:Frandsen, M (Dr Mai Frandsen)
ID Code:121647
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:7
Deposited By:Health Sciences
Deposited On:2017-10-09
Last Modified:2018-09-13

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