Exploring children’s exposure to household tobacco smoke in rural China

Mao, Aimei
Exploring children’s exposure to household tobacco smoke in rural China. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Gender differences are marked in China in terms of smoking prevalence, with over half of Chinese adult men smoking while few women smoke. While studies have suggested that the women’s role be taken into account regarding anti-smoking initiatives, few in-depth studies have exclusively explored women’s constructions of their male family members’ smoking, particularly in rural contexts where smoking is rampant. Using a gender lens, the current study explores the role of mothers of young children to protect their children from exposure to SHS (Secondhand smoke). The study applies a micro-sociological approach using ethnography as the primary research methodology. Fieldwork for the study was conducted between November, 2008 and August, 2009 in a rural area of Central Jiangsu, China. Recruitment of the participants was guided by feminist theory about the values and limitations of the women’s experiences in constructing knowledge about their social life. While mothers of young children were the primary target participants, other family members were also recruited to complement the data from the mothers. In total 16 mothers of young children, four fathers, four grandfathers and five grandmothers were invited to participate in the study. In addition to field observations in home and public settings, interviews carried out with the 29 family members constituted a substantial part of the data. The study revealed that, while father’s smoking was a source of SHS exposure for children in their family, grandfathers’ smoking had become a more important source, posing challenges for mothers in their efforts to protect their children from SHS. Despite limited knowledge about the risks of tobacco smoke to their children’s health, mothers were highly motivated to reduce SHS for their children, who were generally the only child in the family as a result of the one-child policy. The initiation and selection of the strategies to reduce children’s SHS exposure were mediated by gender relationships between mothers and smokers. The lower status of women in the wider social structure, along with the broad acceptance of smoking in the social environment, further limited mothers’ agency in dealing with home smoking. This study calls for re-thinking of the development of home smoking control initiatives which rely solely on expectant/mothers’ roles because of their influence on men’s smoking. Interventions involving family members in a stronger position of power within the family, particularly the grandparents of children, can ease the moral pressure on young mothers to regulate men’s smoking and reduce the potential damage to family harmony caused by junior members’ confronting the smoking behaviours of patriarchal authorities in the family. Furthermore, policies are needed to tackle the pro-smoking culture in rural China.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Uncontrolled Keywords: tobacco smoking, gender, family, mothers, rural China
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Law and Social Justice
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2013 08:41
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2022 01:36
DOI: 10.17638/00006153
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/6153