The Social Basis of Vaccine Questioning and Refusal: A Qualitative Study Employing Bourdieu’s Concepts of ‘Capitals’ and ‘Habitus’

Katie Attwell, Samantha B. Meyer, Paul Ward

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14 Citations (Scopus)
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This article is an in-depth analysis of the social nature of vaccine decision-making. It employs the sociological theory of Bourdieu and Ingram to consider how parents experience non-vaccination as a valued form of capital in specific communities, and how this can affect their decision-making. Drawing on research conducted in two Australian cities, our qualitative analysis of new interview data shows that parents experience disjuncture and tugs towards ‘appropriate’ forms of vaccination behavior in their social networks, as these link to broader behaviors around food, school choices and birth practices. We show how differences emerge between the two cities based on study designs, such that we are able to see some parents at the center of groups valorizing their decisions, whilst others feel marginalized within their communities for their decisions to vaccinate. We draw on the work of philosopher Mark Navin to consider how all parents join epistemic communities that reward compliance and conformity with the status quo and consider what this means for interventions that seek to influence the flow of pro-vaccine information through vaccine-critical social groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1044
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2018

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited


  • vaccine acceptance
  • vaccine hesitancy
  • vaccine refusal;
  • vaccine decision-making
  • social determinants of health
  • vaccine delay
  • vaccine confidence
  • habitus
  • social capital
  • Social determinants of health
  • Vaccine refusal
  • Vaccine hesitancy
  • Vaccine delay
  • Social capital
  • Habitus
  • Vaccine acceptance
  • Vaccine confidence
  • Vaccine decision-making


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