Background: Parent participation is viewed as a pivotal concept to the provision of high quality nursing care for children and their families. Since the 1990's, the term 'partnership with parents' has increasingly been reported in the literature and adopted as a philosophy of care in most paediatric units in the United Kingdom.
Objectives: To explore children's, parents', and nurses' views on participation in care in the healthcare setting.
Design: Using grounded theory, data were collected through in-depth interviews, and participant observation. Sample consisted of eleven children, ten parents and twelve nurses from four paediatric wards in two hospitals in England.
Results: Most nurses assumed that parents would participate in care and viewed their role as facilitators rather than 'doers'. Nurses reported that the ideology of partnership with parents did not accurately reflect or describe their relationships with parents. Parents could never be partners in care as control of the boundaries of care rested with the nurses. Parents felt compelled to be there and to be responsible for their children's welfare in hospital.
Conclusions: The pendulum of parent participation has swung from excluding parents in the past to making parents feel total responsibility for their child in hospital. It is argued that the current models or theories on parent participation/partnership are inappropriate or inadequate because they do not address important elements of children's, parents' and nurses' experiences in hospital.