Caroline McIntosh

Doctor of Philosophy, (Psychology)
Study Completed: 2013
College of Humanities & Social Sciences


Thesis Title
Young children's meaning-making about the causes of illness within the family context

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

Awareness of how young children make sense of illness can assist healthcare practitioners to provide more effective interventions. Currently, young children’s understandings of illness are largely ignored, despite four-year-olds’ ability to share their views, and despite legal endorsements of children’s right to expression. Researching the embeddedness of children’s illness understandings within the family context, Ms McIntosh conducted in-depth interviews with four-year-olds and their families. To help elicit children’s thoughts, children were invited to construct a storybook about ‘getting sick’ using art materials and photographs. Findings suggest that young children’s illness meanings are predominantly behaviour-based and strongly influenced by the illness experiences, prevention messages and rules within families. Rather than assuming children’s understandings are based onage or stage of development, practitioners need to attend to the health messages shared within families, develop programmes that build on prior experiences and beliefs, and work in partnership with families.

Professor Christine Stephens
Professor Antonia Lyons