Parents' experiences of child growth and development concerns: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

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Mulcahy, Helen
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University College Cork
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Background: Assessing child growth and development is complex. Delayed identification of growth or developmental problems until school entry has health, educational and social consequences for children and families. Health care professionals (HCPs), including Public Health Nurses work with parents to elicit and attend to their growth and development concerns. It is known that parents have concerns about their children’s growth and development which are not expressed in a timely manner. Measuring parental concern has not been fully effective to date and little is known about parents’ experiences of expressing concerns. Aim: To understand how parents make sense of child growth or development concerns. Method: The study was qualitative using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). A purposeful sample of 15 parents of pre-school children referred by their PHN to second tier services was used. Data were collected by semi-structured interviews. NVivo version 10 was used for data management purposes and IPA for analysis. Findings: Findings yielded two contextual themes which captured how parents described The Concern – ‘telling it as it is’ and their experiences of being Referred on. Four superordinate themes were found which encapsulated the Uncertainty – ‘a little bit not sure’ of parents as they made sense of the child’s growth and development problems. They were influenced by Parental Knowledge – ‘being and getting in the know’ which aided their sense-making before being prompted by Triggers to action. Parents then described Getting the child’s problem checked out as they went to express their concerns to HCPs. Conclusion and Implications: Parental expression of concerns about their child is a complex process that may not be readily understood by HCPs. A key implication of findings is to reappraise how parental concern is elicited and attended to in order to promote early referral and intervention of children who may have growth and development problems.
Child growth and development , Interpretative phenomenological analysis , Parental concern , Public health nursing , Parents' experiences
Mulcahy, H. 2014. Parents' experiences of child growth and development concerns: an interpretative phenomenological analysis. DN Thesis, University College Cork.
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