A new study exploring the influences behind parents’ decision about vaccination found that social networks play a key role. Published in the journal Pediatrics, the study looked at two types of social networks — "people networks," made of family members, friends and physicians; and "source" networks, research-based groups that included books, magazines, news programs and the Internet.

The findings reveal that "people networks" played a much larger role in decision making, especially among parents who did not conform to suggested vaccination schedules.

"These results suggest that social networks, and particularly people networks, play a key role in shaping parents’ vaccination decisions," wrote study author Emily K. Brunson, M.P.H., Ph.D., of the department of anthropology at Texas State University, San Marcos.

Brunson included 196 first-time parents in the online survey. All were born in the United States and had children aged 18 months or younger. Among the group, 126 “conformers” followed the nationally recommended vaccination schedule, while 70 “nonconformers” either delayed vaccination, didn't vaccinate completely or did not vaccinate at all.

Brunson found that at least 95 percent of parents in both groups reported that they had consulted their “people network” for advice on vaccination decisions. Parents said that they paid the most attention to their spouse or partner’s opinion, followed by health care providers and then friends and relatives, although 10–12 percent of both groups didn’t list doctors among the top five people in their network.

Among those figures, 72 percent of nonconformers’ friends and relatives advised them against national recommendations compared with just 13 percent of conformers’ friends and family members. Brunson concludes that changing parents’ attitudes about vaccines may be a matter of influencing the people who are influencing parents in the first place, reports Time.com.

The significance of parents social networks “blew any other variable out of the water,” says Brunson, “It was more important in terms of predicting what parents decide to do than any other factor, including parents’ own opinions.”

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