Cliff, Dallas and Deery, Ruth (1997) Too much like school: Social class, age, marital status and attendance/non-attendance at antenatal classes. Midwifery, 13 (3). pp. 139-145. ISSN 0266-6138

Objective: to investigate patterns of attendance and non-attendance at National Health Service antenatal classes of first-time mothers in the indigenous white population of a large northern city of the UK.

Design: survey using questionnaires, and selected participants were then given an in-depth interview.

Setting: five maternity wards in two large northern hospitals in the UK. In-depth interviews took place in the respondents' homes.

Participants: fifty newly delivered women were surveyed of whom 18 took part in the follow-up interviews.

Findings: there was a clear hierarchy in attendance and non-attendance based on social class, with middle class women being the most regular attenders, closely followed by older, married, working class women. However, overall social class differences were found to be accounted for by the overwhelming non attendance of young, unmarried, working class women. Older, married, working class women were found to have attendance patterns which were close to their middle class counterparts, and what differences there were seemed to be based on material factors.

Key conclusions: the majority of women felt that antenatal classes were too technical and did not address emotional and psychological issues. However, young, single, unmarried women perceived the classes most negatively. If midwives are to attract such young women, their fears and their need for peer support will have to be recognised

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