Confidential consultations with adolescents: an exploration of Australian parents' perspectives

Rosemary A Sasse, Rosalie A Aroni, Susan M Sawyer, Rony E Duncan
Journal of Adolescent Health 2013, 52 (6): 786-91

PURPOSE: Extensive literature documents the high value adolescents place on seeing doctors alone for confidential health care. This is articulated in clinical guidelines that promote confidentiality for adolescents. However, little research has explored parents' views and beliefs regarding their adolescent children seeing doctors alone for confidential care.

METHOD: A qualitative study was undertaken to investigate the beliefs and opinions of parents about confidential care for adolescents. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 parents of adolescents recruited through the Centre for Adolescent Health at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analyzed using content and thematic analyses.

RESULTS: Parents demonstrated a wide variety of opinions about confidentiality for adolescents in the health setting, with several expressing concern about not being involved in their children's care. Parents' opinions appeared to be underpinned by two key factors; the way in which they perceived their role as a parent and the level of trust they held in health professionals generally but also, specifically, their child's doctor.

CONCLUSION: In this study, parental desires regarding confidentiality for their adolescent children in the health setting were not always in accordance with current guidance provided to health professionals. Consequently, the provision of confidential care for young people may be more successful if health professionals invest in building trust with parents, as well as with adolescents, to facilitate parental acceptance of confidential health care for adolescents.

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