‘娩’ 与 ‘通’: Migrant Ethnic Chinese Mothers’ Intercultural Communication Experiences with Their Maternity-Care and Health Providers in New Zealand
Guo, S. (2013). ‘娩’ 与 ‘通’: Migrant Ethnic Chinese Mothers’ Intercultural Communication Experiences with Their Maternity-Care and Health Providers in New Zealand (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7966
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7966
In the transition to motherhood after migration, ethnic Chinese mothers in New Zealand experience different health and support systems compared to the ones they have knowledge of in China. At the same time, New Zealand maternity-care and health providers find communicating with Chinese mothers a challenge as their knowledge of childbirth, culture, and communication is different to that of Chinese mothers. In examining the contested discourses of maternity care in New Zealand, and the lopsided dimensions of power embedded in them, this thesis focuses on culture and communication as crucial components of the processes and practices of childbirth. As a migrant ethnic Chinese mother in New Zealand, I weave my experiences with those of others to understand how Chinese mothers go through childbirth. In parallel, I speak to maternity-care and health providers in the country and observe how they deliver services to this group of women, their children and their families. In doing so, I unravel the communicative processes of socialising Chinese mothers and the role of culture in influencing Chinese mothers’ understanding and reactions towards ‘娩’ [childbirth] and ‘通’ [communication] with their maternity-care and health providers in New Zealand. The key research questions underpinning my study on understanding and interpreting the intercultural communication experiences between Chinese mothers and their maternity-care and health providers include: • What are the cultural values of Chinese mothers towards childbirth and communication, and how do these values affect their responses to New Zealand’s mainstream discourses in the larger health context; • What are the perceptions and experiences of Chinese mothers during health communication; • What is the role of power in influencing their health communication; • How do Chinese mothers (re)negotiate and (re)construct their values and knowledge of childbirth and communication in interactions with maternity-care and health providers and other groups; and • What is the role of health management structures and practices in facilitating the childbirth process for Chinese mothers and their families? I develop a theoretical framework – a matrix of difference – which encapsulates key tenets of social constructionism, postcolonialism, and Third World feminism. The matrix guides me to go beyond interpreting the superficial layers of intercultural communication experiences into exploring the complexities and tensions of these experiences within socio-cultural, gendered, and postcolonial contexts. Conceptions of language, values, agency, and identity emphasised in the matrix help map my research analysis. I use the snowball technique (Patton, 2002) to invite participants, including ethnic Chinese mothers-to-be and maternity-care and health providers. I interview them, observe communication interactions among them and keep a reflexive journal of my journey to record the participants’ and my own stories of the cultural and communicative dimensions of pregnancy, childbirth, and maternity health care. To describe, explain and critique how dominant discourses influence socially shared knowledge (van Dijk, 1998), I use the critical discourse analysis (CDA) approach to analyse texts, discourses, and discursive construction (Fairclough, 1995; 2003). The research findings demonstrate that values in the discourses of Chinese maternity and health care systems are considerably different from those of New Zealand’s maternity and health care systems. Whereas Chinese discourses appear to advance medicalisation, safety of childbirth and directive communication between doctors and patients, New Zealand discourses tend to promote natural childbirth, consumer culture, and partnership-based communication between health customers and facilitators. Meanwhile, different languages and cultures express subjective realities and different expectations towards a trusting relationship. As a result of these differences, many Chinese mothers experience challenges of fitting in with mainstream New Zealand discourses. These mothers struggle with accessing information and participating in decision making and many feel ‘othered’ due to language barriers, different values of childbirth and communication, and different cultural expectations. Dominant discourses in contemporary New Zealand maternity and health care systems tend to marginalise and suppress ‘other’ structures of knowledge production. In critiquing these taken-for-granted mainstream discourses, my thesis makes a case for a more diverse communication climate in the maternity health care sector that incorporates multiple and subjective worldviews, languages, values, knowledge, and identities. By integrating strands of social constructionist, postcolonial, and Third World feminist approaches, this research makes theoretical, methodological, and practical contributions to the study of health communication and intercultural communication. These contributions are valid not only in the health sector but can also be transferred to other relevant sectors in which people and institutions have to deal with intercultural communication challenges.
University of Waikato
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