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To medicate or not to medicate? Exchange, identity and care in everyday household medication practices

In contemporary societies, medications are one of the most commonly used resources for the prevention, treatment, or cure of illness and disease (Shoemaker & de Oliveira, 2008). Despite this, there is a lack of understanding about how medications are used and understood by lay persons in private domestic dwellings. This research explores the medication experiences, understandings, and practices enacted by mothers caring for their chronically ill children. Four households containing children with chronic illness were involved in this qualitative interpretive research. Semi-structured interviews, mapping, diary keeping, and photo-production exercises were utilised to explore the ways in which medications are implicated in caring practices enacted by the mothers. Giddens’ (1984) structuration theory and the concept of ‘gift exchange’ provide the theoretical foundation for this thesis. This research indicates that the medication understandings and beliefs held by the participants are central to the construction of everyday caring medication practices. These beliefs and practices are not fixed or homogeneous, but complex and changeable; reflecting differing contexts, experiences, and forms of knowledge. The agency of parents as they conceptualise ‘care’ and choose to embrace or resist medication use, challenges the notion of ‘passive’ medication consumers. As the use of medication impacts many relationships within and outside of the confines of the household, this thesis highlights the social and symbolic nature of medications. The relationship between a parent and child is central to medication use, but medical decisions made by parents also implicate various other individuals, including health professionals and lay persons. The findings point to the need for health policy which acknowledges and is responsive to, the shifting health needs and understandings of the lay population.
Type of thesis
Hayward, B. P. (2011). To medicate or not to medicate? Exchange, identity and care in everyday household medication practices (Thesis, Master of Applied Psychology (MAppPsy)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5598
University of Waikato
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