Interviews with 130 mothers of lower social class provided the basis for studying their views on the desirability of general practitioner intervention in their lifestyle habits; the study used both quantitative (questionnaire) and qualitative (interview) techniques. The majority of women were in favour of counselling on specific topics by the general practitioner but the qualitative data also revealed that most respondents expected the issues to be relevant to their presenting problem. Moreover they were keen to assert their right to accept or reject the advice given. The same picture was obtained whether specific or general approaches were used. The results highlight the need for qualitative methods to amplify and clarify the results of quantitative techniques when views or attitudes are being explored. The practical implications of the conclusions touch on both the ethical and clinical dimensions of health promotion.