Parental health attitudes, illnesses and supports and the referral of children to medical specialists

Child Care Health Dev. 1998 Jul;24(4):295-313. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.1998.tb00949.x.


Parental illness and maternal health beliefs in the parents of a group of 40 children referred to a paediatric neurology service because of headaches were compared with illness histories and health beliefs in the parents of a matched group of 40 children presenting to the same service with recognized structural pathology, mainly epilepsy. The study focused on the mother's perceptions of her own health (current and past), on life events, social supports and on her beliefs about her own health and the validity of medical reassurance. Significant differences between the two groups were found in relation to: (a) the greater amount of illness experienced by both parents in the index group (i.e. parents of children with headaches), particularly the mothers, both as children and as adults; (b) the greater amount of illness present in the families of the index group in the 3 years prior to being seen by the neurologist; (c) the greater number of index mothers who had experienced the loss of their own mothers caused by death; (d) the greater tendency of the index mothers to express feelings of loneliness; (e) the greater proportion of index mothers who, in response to the Whiteley Attitudes to Health Questionnaire, expressed both (i) concern about serious disease in themselves, and (ii) reluctance to accept medical reassurance; (f) on the other hand, significantly more 'comparison mothers' complained of currently suffering 'many different symptoms'.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epilepsy / psychology
  • Factitious Disorders / diagnosis
  • Factitious Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Headache / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Sick Role*
  • Social Support*
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology