Journal Article

Understanding antibiotic seeking behaviour: A qualitative study of mothers of children aged five and under


Aims. To explore what factors influence mothers' decisions to seek antibiotics for their young children. Design. Qualitative case study using postcode boundaries. Methods. Thematic analysis of qualitative data from mothers of children under 5, recruited via community playgroups within the case. Data were collected between October 2018 and May 2019, from six focus groups (n = 19) and one-to-one interviews (n = 14). Thematic analysis of the data consisted of six phases: data familiarization; generating initial codes; searching for themes; reviewing themes; defining and naming themes; and producing the report. Results. Mothers were influenced by their belief and trust in antibiotics. Antibiotics were identified as symbolic of recovery, healing and of providing protection and safety. Conclusion. By understanding the symbolic power of antibiotics on maternal decision making, all antibiotic prescribers may be able to offer and provide reassuring alternative and acceptable treatment options to mothers, rather than using antibiotics. Impact. This paper introduces the concept of antibiotics as powerful symbols which influence antibiotic seeking behaviour. This in turn may result in inappropriate use of antibiotics which contributes to the risk of antimicrobial resistance developing. Although the majority of antibiotics are still prescribed by doctors, the number of nurse prescribers has been increasing. Therefore, an increased awareness of antibiotic symbolism, in all prescribing clinicians, is important to enable future local and national strategies to be developed, to support maternal decision making and reduce antibiotic seeking behaviour.

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Bosley, Helen
Henshall, Catherine
Appleton, Jane V.
Jackson, Debra

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Nursing


Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-10-06

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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