What are parents' perspectives on psychological empowerment in the MMR vaccination decision? A focus group study

Marta Fadda, Elisa Galimberti, Valter Carraro, Peter J. Schulz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Objectives: Most developed countries do not have compulsory immunisation requirements, but instead issue recommendations. Although parents are expected to make an informed, autonomous (ie, empowered) decision regarding their children's vaccinations, there is no evidence about how parents' interpret this demand nor on the latitude of their decision-making. The goal of this study is to gain insights from parents residing in a low measlesmumps-rubella (MMR) uptake area on what constitutes feelings of empowerment in the decision they have to make on their child's MMR vaccination. Design: A qualitative study employing focus group interviews. Setting: 11 vaccination centres and hospitals in the Province of Trento, Italy. Participants: 24 mothers and 4 fathers of children for whom the MMR vaccination decision was still pending participated in 6 focus groups. Results: Autonomy and competence were salient themes in relation to empowerment, and were further connected with beliefs regarding legal responsibility and ethics of freedom concerning the decision, parents' relationship with the paediatrician (trust), feelings of relevance of the decision and related stress, and seeking, avoidance, or fear of vaccination-related information. Competence was interpreted as medical knowledge and information-seeking skills, but it was also related to the extent parents perceived the paediatrician to be competent. Conclusions: Since parents' interpretation of empowerment goes beyond mere perceptions of being informed and autonomous and differs across individuals, it is important that this construct be correctly interpreted and implemented by best practice, for instance by explicitly adopting a relational conception of autonomy. Knowing whether parents want to make an empowered decision and what their information and autonomy needs are might help health professionals adapt their communication about immunisation, and promote parental perception of making an informed, autonomous decision.

Original languageEnglish
Article number010773
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016


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