“Tell Me What Hurts Right Now”: Involving Children in Doctor- Parent Interaction through Asking a Question

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Aleksandr Shirokov


Various studies have shown that children make limited contributions to their own medical consultations. One explanation for this is that in Western cultures children are treated as incompetent agents who are not expected to actively participate in such institutional interactions as medical interactions. The article analyzes video recordings of pediatric consultations, particularly how children are involved in the doctor-parent conversation by asking a question. Such situations have a certain structure: first, the doctor poses a question to the parent, then the parent reasks this question to the child slightly changing the question’s design. The author focuses on this change in the question’s design and shows some of the problems associated with how participants formulate questions for children. The author shows that the problems that at first glance are caused by children’s actions are, in fact, the result of the social organization of interaction. The article also demonstrates that children tend to focus on toys rather than doctor-parent conversations during pediatric consultations. Therefore, when children are invited to participate, it is difficult for them to consider what was discussed earlier and recognize what the participants are doing right now. As a result, children may say something that contradicts what was said earlier or interpret the question in a different way than other participants see it. To a certain extent, the presence of toys puts children in a passive position and makes it difficult for them to participate further. The article has both conceptual implications for discussions about children’s agency and patient participation in medical consultations and practical implications for organizing doctor-parent-child communication.

Article in Russian


Conversation Analysis, Doctor-Parent-Child Interaction, Insertion Sequence, Patient Participation, Child Agency

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