Objectives: to explore how mothers of children with recurrent abdominal pain view seeking medical help on behalf of their children.
Design: qualitative interview study.
Setting: paediatric clinics and schools.
Participants: purposive sample of 28 mothers of children with recurrent abdominal pain.
Main outcome measures: Beliefs concerning recurrent abdominal pain, the respective roles of doctors and mothers and the nature and quality of interactions with doctors.
Results: Mothers of children with recurrent abdominal pain reported shaping the way they discussed the child's problem with doctors according to their beliefs about their own roles and the beliefs they perceived doctors to hold about recurrent abdominal pain. Where they were seeking help in managing the pain, they often felt undermined and threatened and responded to this by stressing the physical aspects of the child's presentation.
Conclusions: Doctors may need to acknowledge actively mothers' competence in order to establish a therapeutic alliance.