Communicating with pediatricians about complementary/alternative medicine: perspectives from parents of children with down syndrome

Ambul Pediatr. Nov-Dec 2004;4(6):488-94. doi: 10.1367/A03-0368R1.1.


Objectives: Barriers to communication about complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) between parents and pediatricians are frequently documented, yet the scope of these barriers remains poorly understood. Such barriers are especially troubling when they involve children with special health needs, among whom CAM use is especially common. This pilot study of parents of children with Down syndrome (DS) used qualitative methods to explore parents' perceptions of the extent and quality of communication about CAM with pediatricians, to elicit parents' recommendations for improvement, and to formulate new research questions.

Design: Semistructured interviews were conducted with parents from 30 families with children with DS. Data were audiotaped and analyzed with assistance from qualitative data analysis software.

Results: Parents described how they advocated vigorously with their pediatricians about biomedical concerns such as the American Academy of Pediatrics healthcare guidelines for DS, but often avoided discussion of nonbiomedical concerns such as CAM. Many parents looked to pediatricians to initiate conversations about CAM.

Discussion: Even parents who assertively advocate for biomedical concerns in their children's health care may be unlikely to disclose and discuss CAM use with their pediatricians. Attending to parents' experiences helps to illuminate the nature and scope of current communication barriers and poses new research questions for assessing and improving parent-physician collaboration about health-related issues that may be prioritized differently by parents and pediatricians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • California
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication Barriers
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Down Syndrome / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Pediatrics*
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Qualitative Research