Consultations with adolescents: the gap between their expectations and their experiences

Acta Paediatr. 2003 Nov;92(11):1322-6.


Aim: To study the expectations and experiences of adolescents when in consultation with doctors, particularly with regard to issues of confidentiality.

Methods: In a cross-sectional study, 613 seventh- and ninth-grade students (347 students aged 13 y and 266 students aged 15 y) completed a 40-item questionnaire specifically developed for this study. Students anonymously completed the self-administered questionnaire at school.

Results: Of these adolescents, 89% aged 13 y and 57% aged 15 y were accompanied by one of their parents to appointments with private practitioners. Of the respondents, 33%/52% (13-y-olds/15-y-olds) said that seeing the doctor alone for some time was important but only 18%/20% were given the opportunity to do so. Although 79%/90% of respondents stated that it was important for the doctor to keep information confidential, on request, only 37%/40% of private practitioners had spoken about confidentiality; 64%/78% of adolescents said that doctors should give assurance of confidentiality even with regard to their parents. However, only 26%/27% of private practitioners explicitly assured confidentiality with regard to parents. Acceptance of conditional confidentiality was high in all subpopulations. Short waiting times and the opportunity to talk about topics such as nutrition, drugs and sexuality were rated as important.

Conclusion: Physicians should adapt their consultation style to the needs of adolescents by seeing the adolescent patient alone for some time and by assuring them of conditional confidentiality. Furthermore, they should provide opportunities to talk specifically about issues of potential concern to adolescents such as nutrition, drugs and sexuality. To accomplish these tasks, educational curricula in adolescent healthcare are required for physicians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent*
  • Communication*
  • Confidentiality / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland