• attitudes;
  • children;
  • oral health;
  • parents;
  • Q-methodology

Vermaire JH, Hoogstraten J, van Loveren C, Poorterman JHG, van Exel NJA. Attitudes towards oral health among parents of 6-year-old children at risk of developing caries. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol 2010; 38: 507–520. © 2010 John & Wiley & Sons A/S

Abstract – Objectives:  Parental attitudes are likely to play a role in achieving and maintaining a desired level of oral health in children. To be useful in individually delivered caries prevention programmes, parental attitudes should be identified at individual level. Q-methodology has been proved successful in identifying attitudes in a wide range of disciplines but in dentistry Q-studies are scarce. In this study Q-methodology was used to identify parents’ prevailing attitudes towards the oral health of their children.

Methods:  Thirty-nine parents ranked 37 statements regarding the dental health behaviour they apply to their 6-year-old child. They later explained their rankings during a short interview. In Q-methodology, rather than reporting one average composite attitude and opinion, various combinations of opinions and attitudes concerning these statements are identified using by-person factor analysis.

Results:  Based on their beliefs, attitudes and cognitions, five categories of parents were found: (i) conscious and responsible, (ii) trivializing and fatalistic, (iii) appearance-driven and open-minded, (iv) knowledgeable but defensive and (v) conscious and concerned.

Conclusions:  Q-methodology appears to be a fruitful way to structure the complexity of parents’ opinions and attitudes towards their children’s dental health. It appears that Q-methodology provides comprehensive clusters of individual attitudes, based on various levels of responses to a wide range of questions. The five identified profiles may be useful in developing tailor-made prevention strategies in caries prevention.