Narratives of deprivation: Women's life stories around Maori sudden infant death syndrome

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Aug;71(3):643-649. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.04.028. Epub 2010 May 12.


Maori babies in Aotearoa/New Zealand die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) at over five times the rate of their non-Maori peers. Research and health promotion around modifiable risk factors has produced only a small improvement in this situation since the mid-1990s. This paper reports on life story interviews, conducted between 2002 and 2004, with nineteen mothers of Maori infants who have died of SIDS. Potential participants were identified and accessed with the support of the national Maori SIDS Prevention Programme care-workers, in both urban and rural locations throughout both main islands of New Zealand. The paper articulates, in a thematic fashion, the bereaved mothers' experiences of alienation, marginalisation and exclusion, as a testimony of lives lived under conditions of serious deprivation in an affluent society. Constructing these experiences as non-modifiable risk factors hinders the development of policy and health promotion interventions that could improve the conditions in which Maori mothers live and raise their babies. It is argued that new approaches that target those whose lives are described here and build on the WHO Social Determinants of Health framework are vital to the efforts of New Zealanders to attain health equity and stem the tide of devastating and preventable loss of Maori babies to SIDS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bereavement
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Narration
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / psychology*
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / statistics & numerical data
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Social Alienation
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sudden Infant Death / ethnology*
  • Young Adult