Patterns of cultural consensus and intracultural diversity in Ghanaian complementary feeding practices
Abstract: Designing effective interventions to improve infant and young child (IYC) feeding requires knowledge about determinants of current practices, including cultural factors. Current approaches to obtaining and using research on culture tend to assume cultural homogeneity within a population. The purpose of this study was to examine the extent of cultural consensus (homogeneity) in communities where interventions to improve IYC feeding practices are needed to address undernutrition during the period of complementary feeding. A second, related objective was to identify the nature of intracultural variation, if such variation was evident. Selected protocols from the Focused Ethnographic Study for Infant and Young Child Feeding Manual were administered to samples of key informants and caregivers in a peri‐urban and a rural area in Brong‐Ahafo, Ghana. Cultural domain analysis techniques (free listing, caregiver assessment of culturally significant dimensions, and food ratings on these dimensions), as well as open‐ended questions with exploratory probing, were used to obtain data on beliefs and related practices. Results reveal generally high cultural consensus on the 5 dimensions that were assessed (healthiness, appeal, child acceptance, convenience, and modernity) for caregiver decisions and on their ratings of individual foods. However, thematic analysis of caregiver narratives indicates that the meanings and content of the constructs connoted by the dimensions differed widely among individual mothers. These findings suggest that research on cultural factors that affect IYC practices, particularly cultural beliefs, should consider the nature and extent of cultural consensus and intracultural diversity, rather than assuming cultural homogeneity.