Factors Distinguishing Positive Deviance Among Low-Income African American Women: A Qualitative Study on Infant Feeding

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid



Positive deviant individuals practice beneficial behaviors in spite of having qualities characterizing them as high risk for unhealthy behaviors.


This study aimed to identify and understand factors distinguishing low-income African American women who breastfeed the longest (positive deviants) from those who breastfeed for a shorter duration or do not breastfeed.


Seven mini-focus groups on infant-feeding attitudes and experiences were conducted with 25 low-income African American women, grouped by infant-feeding practice. Positive deviants, who had breastfed for 4 months or more, were compared with formula-feeding participants who had only formula fed their babies and short-term breastfeeding participants who had breastfed for 3 months or less.


Positive deviant women had more schooling, higher income, breastfeeding intention, positive breastfeeding and unfavorable formula-feeding attitudes, higher self-efficacy, positive hospital and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children experiences, more exclusive breastfeeding, and greater comfort breastfeeding in public. Short-term breastfeeding women varied in breastfeeding intention and self-efficacy, seemed to receive insufficient professional breastfeeding support, and supplemented breastfeeding with formula. Some showed ambivalence, concern with unhealthy behaviors, and discomfort with breastfeeding in public. Formula-feeding women intended to formula feed, feared breastfeeding, thought their behaviors were incompatible with breastfeeding, were comfortable with and found formula convenient, and received strong support to formula feed.


Tapping into the strengths of positive deviants; tailoring interventions to levels of general and breastfeeding self-efficacy; increasing social, institutional, and community supports; and removing inappropriate formula promotion may offer promising strategies to increase breastfeeding among low-income African American women.

Related Topics

    loading  Loading Related Articles