Public attitudes toward vaccination: Influences of message frames, parenting attitudes, and cultural worldviews
The capacity of developmental science to inform effective policies and decision-making on behalf of children depends, in part, on the public messages that accompany these issues. Increased understanding of the importance of how scientific evidence is presented has led to a growing alliance between experts in strategic framing and developmental scientists. One developmental issue for which strategic communication may play a particularly important role is that of childhood vaccination. Over the last two decades, increased skepticism about the safety and necessity of vaccines has led to decreases in vaccination uptake and increases in vaccine-preventable disease. The fact that parents are refusing vaccinations for their children has been a major cause for concern among scientists and healthcare providers, for whom the benefits of vaccination are generally unassailable.With this in mind, the aim of this dissertation was to go beyond demographic factors in trying to understand the mechanisms - including message frames, parenting attitudes, and cultural worldviews - that might explain people's attitudes toward both individual vaccination uptake and vaccination policy. Participants completed an online survey about `children's health and well-being' and were randomly assigned to one of three message groups: no message, community-oriented thematic message or family-oriented episodic message. After reading a message about vaccination, participants answered questions about their support for individual vaccination decisions and vaccination policy. Participants also completed items that assessed their parenting attitudes and cultural worldviews.Findings suggest that there was no effect of experimental message frame on vaccination attitudes, as there were no significant differences in support for vaccination decision or for vaccination policy among the message conditions. However, structural equation analyses do suggest that both parenting attitudes and cultural worldviews play an important role in shaping vaccination attitudes, through direct and indirect pathways. These two factors may help to explain previously reported associations between certain demographic characteristics - like race, income, and education - and vaccination refusal.It is our hope that by illuminating some of the factors that influence people's attitudes toward vaccination, this research will contribute to communications efforts that help bridge the gap between scientific and public opinion and that ultimately promote children's healthy development
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