The cycle of uncertainty: parents’ experiences of childhood epilepsy

Michelle Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Uncertainty has been highlighted as an important aspect of experiences of chronic conditions generally and epilepsy in particular. However, there is little research exploring the extent to which uncertainty features in the experiences of family members or the form that this uncertainty may take. Drawing on in-depth semi-structured interviews with 27 parents who had a child with epilepsy, this paper explores parents’ experiences of uncertainty and the way in which their views on childhood and epilepsy interacted and contributed to the uncertainties they experienced. It is argued that the occurrence of epilepsy during childhood shaped parents experiences as they used their ‘social clocks’ in order to interpret symptoms. Furthermore, parents described what has been termed a ‘cycle of uncertainty’. Indeed, the combination of epilepsy (a condition with various inherent forms of uncertainty) and childhood (a period in the life course that is seen as a time of development) meant that parents could not be sure which changes in their child were a result of the condition and which were a normal part of the ageing process. Overall, this paper demonstrates that it is important to contextualise experiences of chronic conditions in relation to different stages in the life course.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-218
Number of pages14
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number2
Early online date23 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

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