Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Health Services


JaMuir M. Robinson


Although U.S. breastfeeding rates have steadily increased since 2000, there continues to be a disparity in breastfeeding rates for African American (AA) women compared to their non-Hispanic White counterparts. A male partner's perception, specifically his positive attitude toward breastfeeding, may influence breastfeeding initiation and duration rates. This study was an exploration of AA male perceptions and attitudes toward breastfeeding and what effect masculinity ideology (gender norms) has on such attitudes. The socio-ecological model (SEM) was used as the theoretical framework to examine the various environmental levels that intersect with one another to influence these attitudes. A mixed methods study design, using (a) an online survey combining the Iowa Infant Feeding Attitudes Scale (IIFAS) and the Male Role Norms Scales (MRNS) (N =206) and (b) 3 focus group sessions (N = 17), was used to collect data. African American men ages 18 and older were eligible to participate in the study. Results of the regression analysis showed a negative correlation between positive breastfeeding attitudes and traditional masculinity ideology. Nvivo analysis of focus group transcripts revealed themes of gender norms, knowledge of breastfeeding, and public opinions. The themes from the focus groups were categorized using the 4 levels of the SEM: Individual, Relationships, Community, and Societal; themes corresponded with Levels 1 (Individual) and 4 (Societal) of the SEM. These results indicate that a gender-transformative approach may be used to strengthen breastfeeding-promotion interventions targeting AA males. The positive social change implications of this research include a paradigm shift in views on gender norms and increased engagement of men in decisions that affect infant and child health and development.