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Difficult and unlikeable parents.
  1. R Meadow
  1. Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, St James's University Hospital, Leeds.


    Children of parents who are perceived as difficult or unlikeable are at risk of receiving less good medical care. Therefore a postal questionnaire was sent to 100 hospital doctors dealing with children asking which features made them consider a parent to be difficult or unlikeable. Seventy eight responded. Most problems arose from parents who displayed aggression, disparagement of their child, unacknowledged anxiety, or fixed ideas about the medical condition and its management. Other unpopular parental features were poor compliance, failure to listen, and the attendance of more than one accompanying adult. Respondents graded 16 features in order of their detrimental effect on the child's care. A major factor was if the child had a condition for which the doctor could offer no treatment; less important was the fact that the child might have a condition not understood by the doctor. Parents originating from the Indian subcontinent posed additional problems, in particular the common unavailability of interpreters. Doctors of all grades understood why parents behaved in awkward ways, but lacked strategies for dealing with them. A similar survey of nurses and therapists produced a poor response (51% returns). Only the most senior acknowledged that some parents were difficult or unlikeable and that, as a consequence, the child's care might be affected. Nurses acknowledged difficulty with parents who were violent or who abused their children physically.

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