Supporting Pakistani and Chinese families with young children: perspectives of mothers and health visitors

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Abstract

Background

In the UK, public health nurses (health visitors) provide support and advice to families with young children, including those from minority ethnic communities. While the need for cultural sensitivity is being increasingly recognized, the factors which contribute to this sensitivity are poorly understood. The Pakistani and Chinese communities constitute the two largest minority ethnic groups in Scotland. This study explored Pakistani and Chinese women's experience of motherhood and of the health visiting service and public health nurses' experiences of working with Chinese and Pakistani mothers.

Methods

Semi-structured individual interviews were carried out with 16 Pakistani and 15 Chinese mothers. Eight health visitors took part in two focus groups. The study was undertaken in an urban area of Scotland. Data were analysed thematically.

Findings

Chinese and Pakistani mothers negotiate complex processes in order to ensure that their children maintain their own ethnic identity while fitting in with their peers in their adopted country. Health visitors were seen as supportive, although sometimes advice and information given was culturally inappropriate, and their role was often poorly understood. Health visitors were anxious to be sensitive to families' religious and cultural beliefs.

Conclusions

Cultural sensitivity is an important factor in providing appropriate advice and help to Pakistani and Chinese families, and involves health visitors in considering views and practices on parenting which may differ across cultures, including their own. Family characteristics need to be understood on an individual basis, rather than making assumptions about clients' cultural norms and lifestyles. This is best achieved by exploring with mothers if they understand the advice and information they are being offered and also if it is appropriate to their cultural and religious beliefs.

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