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Investigating the potential of parenting message boards for understanding health beliefs and behaviours in relation to common childhood illnesses

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C Cabral
    Dr J Horwood
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The internet is an increasingly important source of health information and one which is increasingly accessible to all. On-line discussion forums can give insight into information seeking, beliefs and understanding of illness and management behaviours including home treatments, use of over the counter medicines and consulting. Parents from all social backgrounds searched the internet for information about common childhood illnesses, including experienced-based advice from other parents on message boards. Previous studies have used ethnographic or thematic analysis of parenting message boards to provide insights into parents’ information seeking and parents’ beliefs in relation to the MMR vaccination. To date there has been no analysis of information exchange around management of common childhood illness and no previous studies have attempted to use message boards as a point of intervention.

Aims & Objectives
This study will explore what kinds of information parents are seeking and receiving about management of common childhood infections from on-line message boards. It will investigate parents’ health beliefs and behaviours and how these are discussed within lay communities. In addition it will investigate the potential of on-line message boards for delivery and dissemination of important child health information.

This project will entail i) a qualitative secondary data analysis of message board data, ii) a qualitative study of the acceptability of message boards as a point where information based on research evidence could be provided and iii) a quantitative survey of parents beliefs, behaviours and information needs. Popular parenting message boards will be systematically searched for child health queries and discussion threads relating to common childhood infections. A sample of around 30 parents will be recruited through the message boards to participate in the qualitative interviews. A thematic analysis utilising a data-driven inductive approach will be conducted for both the secondary and primary qualitative data. Drawing on the qualitative findings, a quantitative survey will be designed to capture demographic variables, health beliefs and behaviours, information needs and preferences (how, where and when information should be delivered).


Plantin L & Daneback K 2009 Parenthood information and support on the internet. A literature review of research on parents and professionals online. BMC Fam Pract 10: 34
Porter N & Ispa JM 2012 Mothers’ online message board questions about parenting infants and toddlers. Journal of Advanced Nursing

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