Family experiences with outpatient care: do adolescents and parents have the same perceptions?

J Adolesc Health. 2010 Jul;47(1):92-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.12.005. Epub 2010 Feb 4.


Purpose: Providing healthcare for adolescents involves balancing parents' and adolescents' needs, and little research addressing, measuring, and achieving this balance has been conducted. A first step for healthcare providers toward achieving this balance is to understand the differences between parents and adolescents regarding perceptions of outpatient care experiences. This study was to explore and compare the experiences of care between parents and adolescents in a primary care setting.

Methods: As part of an institution-wide system to measure patient satisfaction, 170 pairs of adolescent patients aged 11-17.9 years and their parents/guardians who had an outpatient visit at a Teen Health Center located within a large pediatric hospital were interviewed by telephone using both closed- and open-ended questions.

Results: Overall, perceptions of care between adolescents and parents were very similar. However, adolescents reported less involvement in decisions about medical care and were less likely to receive understandable answers to questions. A qualitative analysis of responses to open-ended questions indicated that aspects of care important to both adolescents and parents are communication followed by interpersonal skills and technical competence. Parents and adolescents did not always view confidentiality in the same way.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that more time should be spent focusing on the adolescents' needs concerning communication. Healthcare providers should focus on the adolescents' needs by involving them in decisions and providing understandable answers to questions. Both parents and adolescents should be surveyed to measure their experience of care, especially with respect to involvement in care decisions, communication, and confidentiality.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services*
  • Ambulatory Care / psychology*
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Midwestern United States
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Patient Participation / psychology
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Psychology, Adolescent*