Similarities and differences in the meanings children and their parents attach to epilepsy medications

Michelle Webster

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By exploring the meanings children and their parents attached to two household treatments for childhood epilepsy (antiepileptic drugs and emergency medications), this paper broadens our understanding of the way in which children view their medications and how these views can impact on their adherence to treatment. The paper draws on data collected during 2013 and 2014 from 24 families across the UK that had a child with epilepsy aged 3-13 years. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with the parents and 10 children participated in autodriven photo-elicitation interviews. Parents’ and children’s perceptions of medications were compared and contrasted and the findings show that although both parents and children viewed medications as an unpleasant necessity, parents concerns centred on the perceived side effects of medications, whereas the children commented on the process of ingesting medications. Additionally, some of the children had to learn that their medications were a preventative measure, as they originally viewed them as a cure. Furthermore, among the children, it was found that treatment could be seen as either a positive or negative symbol of difference. Lastly, emergency medications were often viewed as a saviour, particularly by parents. Through this analysis, the study shows that the meanings children attached to medications were often linked to the form the medication took and that the way in which children perceived their medications had implications for their adherence; indeed, those who viewed their medications as an unpleasant necessity and those who initially saw their treatment as a cure were most likely to stop taking their medications. Consequently, this paper contributes to the current literature on the meanings individuals attach to treatments by providing the first detailed insight into children’s views on epilepsy medications and by illustrating the similarities and differences in children’s and parents’ perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190–197
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date1 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Adherence
  • Children
  • Epilepsy
  • Medications
  • Parents

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