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Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 108, Issue 3, pp e265–e272 | Cite as

Parents’ online discussions about children’s dental caries: A critical content analysis

  • Avery Milne
  • Cynthia A. Weijs
  • Rebecca J. Haines-Saah
  • Lindsay McLarenEmail author
Quantitative Research
  • 2 Downloads

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Through an analysis of postings to an online parenting forum, we aimed to explore the many ways in which parents orient to (i.e., take up, challenge, re-articulate) information about child dental health in the context of their online interactions. Our analysis is anchored in Nettleton’s theoretical work on dental authority and power, which we apply in a digital context.

METHODS: We examined discussion threads from the public online forums on BabyCenter Canada. We identified relevant threads using the site search function and keywords related to dental health, with a focus on dental caries (tooth decay), related care behaviours (e.g., toothbrushing), and the controversial issue of fluoride. Following descriptive content coding, we applied a critical lens to unpack themes related to expert knowledge, gender and parenting online cultures.

RESULTS: We analyzed 479 relevant threads. Our findings focus on two central themes: the tension between parents’ views and those of dental health professionals; and, the gendered, cultural roles and expectations that position mothers as primarily responsible for the care of children’s dental health. Though these themes are not new, our findings show that they persist in the digital context where social divisions (e.g., expert/non-expert) may be blurred.

CONCLUSIONS: Our analysis of online discussions provides an opportunity to think critically about ways in which parents engage with public health, in digital contexts. Although some mothers express disconnect when communicating with dental professionals, they are very engaged and concerned with dental health issues for their children. A challenge for dental public health is to find ways to shift perspective towards recognizing that the target population is empowered and already engaged in discussions of research evidence and clinical encounters on their own terms, facilitated by an online context.

Key Words

Dentistry parents public health social media sociology 

Résumé

OBJECTIFS: Au moyen d’une analyse des publications sur un site parental en ligne, nous avons pour but d’examiner les façons multiples selon lesquelles les parents s’orientent (c.-à-d., s’approprier, défier, réarticuler) les informations sur la santé dentaire des enfants dans le contexte de leurs interactions en ligne. Notre analyse s’inscrit dans le travail théorique de Nettleton sur l’autorité et le pouvoir dentaires, que nous utilisons dans un contexte numérique.

MÉTHODES: Nous avons examiné les fils de discussion des forums en ligne sur BabyCenter Canada. Nous avons identifié des fils pertinents en utilisant une fonction de recherche ainsi que des mots-clés liés à la santé dentaire, et concentrés sur les caries dentaires, les comportements de soins dentaires (p.ex., se brosser les dents), ainsi que les controverses sur le fluorure. En utilisant un code de description du contenu, nous avons utilisé un regard critique afin de décortiquer les thèmes liés aux connaissances expertes, au genre, et aux sites sur lesquels on discute des enjeux parentaux.

RÉSULTATS: Nous avons analysé 479 fils pertinents. Nos conclusions sont centrées sur deux thèmes principaux: la tension entre les pointes de vue des parents et ceux des professionnels de la santé dentaire, d’une part; et, le rôle traditionnel qui veut que ce soit la mère qui agisse à titre de responsable principal de la santé dentaire des enfants. Même si ces thèmes ne présentent rien de neuf, nos données montrent qu’ils persistent dans un contexte numérique où l’on trouve des clivages sociaux (p. ex., expert / non-expert) peuvent devenir flous.

CONCLUSIONS: Notre analyse des discussions en ligne offre l’occasion de penser de manière critique au sujet des façons dont les parents s’intéressent à la santé publique dans un contexte numérique. Malgré le fait que certaines mères constatent une discontinuation lorsqu’elles communiquent avec les professionnels de la santé dentaire, elles sont très engagées et préoccupées quant aux enjeux de la santé dentaire de leurs enfants. Un des défis pour la santé dentaire publique sera de trouver des moyens de changer la perspective afin de reconnaître que la population cible est habiletée et déjà engagée dans des discussions au sujet des preuves scientifiques et des rencontres en clinique, selon leurs propres termes, facilité par un contexte numérique.

Mots Clés

dentisterie parents santé publique médias sociaux sociologie 

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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Avery Milne
    • 1
  • Cynthia A. Weijs
    • 1
  • Rebecca J. Haines-Saah
    • 1
  • Lindsay McLaren
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Community Health SciencesUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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