How do paediatricians communicate with children and parents?

Acta Paediatr. 2004 Nov;93(11):1501-6. doi: 10.1080/08035250410015079.


Aim: The outpatient clinic visit is the major focus of the hospital medical process for most paediatricians, children and parents. The importance of children as active participants in this interaction has been recognized. Our study aims are to describe and assess the components of doctor-parent-child communication in the outpatient setting.

Methods: Fifty-one medical paediatric clinic consultations were recorded on audio cassette, and communication was analysed according to quantitative methods. Questionnaires assessed parents' and children's perceptions.

Results: Doctors contributed most to the conversation (61%), children only 4%. Behaviour: Doctors' communication was 84% instrumental (e.g. asking questions, giving information or instructions), 13% affective behaviour (expressing concerns and worries) and 3% social (small talk). Parents' communication included giving information (83%), seeking information (13%) and social (4%). The child asked less information (3%) and had more social conversation (19%).

Control: Doctors dominated in turn taking (52%). Children took 9% of all turns. Perception: There was no correlation between parents' and children's perception and the informative or affective behaviour of the doctor.

Conclusion: Communication is mainly instrumental. Doctors tend to direct the interview. Children's contribution is small. The participation of children needs to be encouraged as part of a patient-centred approach.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Parents
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pediatrics*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*