Objective: To investigate, by using qualitative methods, perceptions about sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in African-American parents and how these influence decisions.
Study design: Eighty-three mothers participated in focus groups or individual interviews. Interviews probed reasons for decisions about infant sleep environment and influences affecting these decisions. Data were coded, and themes were developed and revised in an iterative manner as patterns became more apparent.
Results: Themes included lack of plausibility, randomness, and vigilance. Many mothers believed that the link between SIDS and sleep position was implausible. Because the cause of SIDS was unknown, they did not understand how certain behaviors could be defined as risk factors. This confusion was reinforced by perceived inconsistency in the recommendations. Most mothers believed that SIDS occurred randomly ("God's will") and that the only way to prevent it was vigilance.
Conclusions: Many African-American mothers may not understand the connection between SIDS and sleep behaviors or believe that behavior (other than vigilance) cannot affect risk. These beliefs, if acted on, may affect rates of safe sleep practices. Efforts to explain a plausible link between SIDS and safe sleep recommendations and to improve consistency of the message may result in increased adherence to these recommendations.
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