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Open Access Research article

Predictive modelling: parents’ decision making to use online child health information to increase their understanding and/or diagnose or treat their child’s health

Anne M Walsh1*, Melissa K Hyde2, Kyra Hamilton3 and Katherine M White4

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing, Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI), Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane, Queensland, 4001, Australia

2 Behavioural Basis of Health, Griffith Health Institute and School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, 176 Messines Ridges Road, Mt Gravatt, Queensland, 4122, Australia

3 School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, 176 Messines Ridges Road, Mt Gravatt, Queensland, 4122, Australia

4 School of Psychology and Counselling, Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI), Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane, Queensland, 4001, Australia

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2012, 12:144  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-12-144

Published: 10 December 2012

Abstract

Background

The quantum increases in home Internet access and available online health information with limited control over information quality highlight the necessity of exploring decision making processes in accessing and using online information, specifically in relation to children who do not make their health decisions. The aim of this study was to understand the processes explaining parents’ decisions to use online health information for child health care.

Methods

Parents (N = 391) completed an initial questionnaire assessing the theory of planned behaviour constructs of attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioural control, as well as perceived risk, group norm, and additional demographic factors. Two months later, 187 parents completed a follow-up questionnaire assessing their decisions to use online information for their child’s health care, specifically to 1) diagnose and/or treat their child’s suspected medical condition/illness and 2) increase understanding about a diagnosis or treatment recommended by a health professional.

Results

Hierarchical multiple regression showed that, for both behaviours, attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioural control, (less) perceived risk, group norm, and (non) medical background were the significant predictors of intention. For parents’ use of online child health information, for both behaviours, intention was the sole significant predictor of behaviour. The findings explain 77% of the variance in parents’ intention to treat/diagnose a child health problem and 74% of the variance in their intentions to increase their understanding about child health concerns.

Conclusions

Understanding parents’ socio-cognitive processes that guide their use of online information for child health care is important given the increase in Internet usage and the sometimes-questionable quality of health information provided online. Findings highlight parents’ thirst for information; there is an urgent need for health professionals to provide parents with evidence-based child health websites in addition to general population education on how to evaluate the quality of online health information.

Keywords:
Online health information; Child health; Child health information seeking; Theory of planned behaviour; Risk taking; Group norm; Parental decision making; Internet use