Mothers of Southern Central Appalachia: Family Guides through Health

Document Type


Publication Date



Background. This study (part of a larger grant-funded omnibus study) examines the roles of mothers in Southern Central Appalachia regarding family health communication.
Methods. This presentation is based on a secondary analysis (Thorne, 1994) of existing qualitative data sets from two (2) previous studies of women living in Southern Central Appalachia. In the first study, Kelly Dorgan (primary investigator), Sadie Hutson (co-principle investigator), and Kathryn Duvall (researcher) collected the stories of 29 women cancer survivors from Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia via a mixed methods approach. In the second study, Sadie Hutson (primary investigator) and Kelly Dorgan (co-investigator) investigated communication and cultural issues that may influence HPV and HPV vaccine perceptions and uptake behaviors in the region. We recruited 38 women between 18-50 years to participate in a single individual interview or focus group session.
Results. The secondary analysis has yielded preliminary results about the role of “mother” in health communication within family systems. These results challenge us to reconceptualize traditional characterizations of the “Appalachian Mother.” The role of mother as related to family health communication is a complex one. Specifically, there are “many mother” roles, including informational, instrumental, and emotional. Ultimately, women who identify as mothers appear to serve as decision guides, informational agents and health communication specialists within families.
Significance. This paper further explores the illness and wellness in Southern Central Appalachia, as well as the question of “Appalachian distinctiveness.”


Johnson City, TN

This document is currently not available here.