'Let mum have her say': turntaking in doctor-parent-child communication

Patient Educ Couns. 2000 May;40(2):151-62. doi: 10.1016/s0738-3991(99)00075-0.


Recent legislation in the Netherlands requires that children should play a part in decision making regarding their own health care. So far, however, little attention has been given to the child's participation in medical interviews. In order to get a grip on aspects of asymmetry and control in doctor-parent-child communication, the present study explores the turntaking patterns in this triad at the general practitioner's surgery, and makes a comparison over the years. Videotaped observations of 106 medical interviews taken over a period of almost 20 years have been analyzed by means of the Turn Allocation System. The results show that the child's control in the medical consultation is rather limited, though, over the years, the child participates more actively. The child's conversational contribution appears to be strongly related to the age of the child. An important finding is the difference in the way GP and parent accommodate their turntaking patterns to the child; parental control appears to be constant over the years, and is not related to the age of the child, whereas the GP is considering the child's age. The results are discussed in terms of implications for medical practice and health education.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Patient Participation*
  • Pediatrics / methods*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*