Background Although teenage pregnancy levels are declining, the North East of England still has the highest rate of young parenthood (age <18 years) in the UK. Young parents and their children often face many health and social problems, requiring interactions with a wide range of health professionals, such as midwives, doctors and health visitors.
Aim This qualitative interview study aimed to explore young parents' views and experiences of interactions with health professionals.
Methods Young mothers and fathers (n=10) were recruited from youth groups and Sure Start parenting classes in Newcastle upon Tyne during the period April–June 2013. They took part in one-to-one or small group semi-structured interviews regarding their experiences of interacting with health professionals about their own health and that of their child. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using thematic content analysis.
Results Emergent themes included: beliefs about children's health; proving oneself as a parent; and positives of parenting. All the participants distinguished between being a ‘first-time parent, not just a young parent’ and all, to varying degrees, challenged the authority and judgement of medical and nursing practitioners with regard to their children's health.
Conclusions The findings of this study highlight the need for health professionals to be particularly aware of the sensitivities arising from the power imbalances perceived by young parents of ill children. This can be achieved by following communication skills frameworks (e.g. the Calgary-Cambridge framework) that emphasise the importance of techniques such as active listening and building rapport.
- general practice
- health education
- qualitative research
- service delivery
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