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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Prof Helen L. Ball

Cronin-de-Chavez, Anna, Ball, Helen L. & Ward-Platt, Martin P. (2016). Bi-ethnic infant thermal care beliefs in Bradford, UK. International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare 9(2): 120-134.

Author(s) from Durham


– Overheating is considered a modifiable risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The purpose of this paper is to explore differences in infant thermal care beliefs between mothers of South Asian and white British origin in Bradford, UK.

– This study employed face-to-face interviews with semi-structured and structured questions with 51 white British and 51 South-Asian mothers in the Bradford District, UK.

– White British mothers were more concerned about overheating causing SIDS whereas South-Asian mothers were more concerned about cold causing respiratory infections. However concerns around hypothermia and chills causing colds were expressed in both groups. White British mothers were significantly more likely to be concerned about their infant getting too hot than too cold and South-Asian mothers about both heat and cold (p0.001), but white British mothers on lower incomes and with poorer education expressed concern about cold more so than their better off, better educated peers indicating a possible link to fuel poverty.

Research limitations/implications
– It was not possible to observe actual night-time practices and that South Asian as a cultural category is limited because could be regarded as too broad.

Practical implications
– Whilst there guidance available to prevent infants overheating to prevent SIDS there is little or none about infants getting cold and how temperature affects other conditions.

Social implications
– Thermal care behaviours and beliefs differ between ethnic groups. SIDS and overheating is only one concern for mothers in providing thermal care for their infants. More policy and research is needed to explore the wider impact of thermal care on infant health and survival.

– This topic is rarely addressed despite the wide ranging implications of heat and cold to infant well-being.