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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1983 Apr;44(4):657-71.

Predicting and understanding mothers' infant-feeding intentions and behavior: testing the theory of reasoned action.


The present study examines the applicability of Fishbein and Ajzen's theory of reasoned action to the prediction and understanding of how primiparous and multiparous mothers intended to feed their infants and how they actually fed these infants during the 6 weeks following delivery. Measures of attitudes to behavior, subjective norms, and behavioral intentions were taken during the last trimester of pregnancy. Behavior was assessed by self-report 6 weeks postpartum. In most respects the findings supported the theory of reasoned action. However, attitudes to behavior were found to make an independent and significant contribution to the prediction of infant-feeding behavior, and the previous behavior of multiparous mothers explained an independent and significant proportion of variation in their behavioral intentions. The relative importance of the attitudinal and normative components of the theoretical model tended to vary according to whether the mothers had direct experience of the criterion behavior. Further analysis revealed that mothers who breast-fed during the 6-week postpartum period differed from those who bottle-fed exclusively during this period on a number of behavioral beliefs, outcome evaluations, and normative beliefs, and on one measure of motivation to comply. The implications of these findings for the theory of reasoned action are discussed.

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