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Pediatric Nursing


The media has always had a profound interest in mothers and birth stories. This study examined the difference between media portrayal of 'good' mothers and 'bad' mothers. Did the media cover potential harm to fetuses and would-be children in the same way for two groups of mothers: (a) pregnant women addicted to illicit drugs and (b) women who chose to continue a high-order, multiple birth pregnancy? Two searches were conducted on Lexis-Nexis, one with keywords 'McCaughey and birth' and another with the keywords 'pregnancy and illegal drugs.' A total of 210 articles were coded for the McCaughey search, and 90 articles were coded for the pregnancy and illegal drugs search. The media did not address potential harm in the same way in both cases. The harm from illegal drugs was exaggerated, while the harm from multiple births was downplayed. Consequently, the media response towards the two cases was dramatically different. In conclusion, the communal and regulatory responses to both drug-addicted pregnant women and large multiple births caused by infertility treatments needs to be rethought.

Original Citation

Charles, S., & Shivas, T. (2002). Pediatric ethics, issues, & commentary. Mothers in the media: blamed and celebrated -- an examination of drug abuse and multiple births. Pediatric Nursing, 28(2), 142-145.