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Planning families in Zaria: an investigation into the information-behaviours and favoured advice-givers of parents in northern Nigeria.

Hellandendu, Malatl Mary-Anne



James Morrison

Elizabeth Tait


The availability of precise, impartial and credible information is crucial to building knowledge and empowering citizens to make rational individual and collective decisions. For this reason, the usefulness of information for satisfying identified needs is strongly dependent on the appropriateness of its presentation (language, format, and consideration of cultural and religious sensitivities) and its accessibility (cost of acquiring, mode of dissemination, location of distribution). Nigeria is a country characterised by wide-scale poverty, unemployment, crime, high maternal and infant mortality rates, and high fertility rates - especially in the North-West. Despite the concerted efforts of government agencies, non-government organisations (NGOs), charities and international organisations to reduce fertility and promote family planning (FP), utilisation remains low. Culture, religion, fear of medical side-effects and the dominant decision-making influence of men have repeatedly been identified by researchers as barriers to the adoption of FP by parents and prospective parents in the region. Information-seeking behaviour (ISB) has consistently been recognised as pivotal to developing effective initiatives for promoting sustainable and healthy populations, yet take-up of FP remains low in developing countries, including Nigeria, especially in rural communities. This thesis uses the Information Seeking and Communication Model (ISCM) to analyse the ISB of men and women in the rural Local Government Area of Zaria, northern Nigeria. Thematic analysis of 12 semi-structured interviews revealed evident disparities in the behaviours and choices of favoured advice-givers. While married couples' ISB and major FP sources were more informal than formal – privileging anecdote, received wisdom and personal experience over 'official' advice from government or health professionals - men favoured the authority of religious leaders or community-based sources (e.g. village heads), while women preferred to rely on informal advice sources. However, single men and women's ISB and information sources were majorly semi-formal, in avoidance of being described as deviants in the society. Distrust for government and practical barriers to accessing information (e.g. distance from health centres or problems with understanding the formats of pamphlets and translating literature written in non-native languages) were revealed to be the most significant barriers to the uptake of more formal FP advice. The study ends by recommending a series of possible improvements to the FP communication process, by making information more accessible to the critical sub-groups identified, while also being sensitive to cultural and religious values, so as to better engage with 'hard to reach' individuals and communities.


HELLANDENDU, M.M.-A. 2019. Planning families in Zaria: an investigation into the information-behaviours and favoured advice-givers of parents in northern Nigeria. Robert Gordon University [online], MRes thesis. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 10, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 10, 2019
Keywords Family planning; Information seeking behaviour; Nigeria; Zaria (Nigeria)
Public URL
Award Date Feb 28, 2019


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