The children's sentinels: Mothers and their relationships with health professionals in the context of Japanese health care

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The context of the Japanese health care setting shaped Japanese women's roles as the major and solo caretakers of their ill children, which caused them to be removed from the family unit during the children's illnesses. The mothers became sentinels and tried to protect their children from unnecessary physical and psychological distress and agony in the hospital context. Some of them comforted their children in the home-care context once their children reached the point where no other treatment could help. At the same time, they tried to establish effective relationships with health professionals, especially physicians. One third of the mothers gave the initiative to the physician, but almost half of the mothers shared the initiative to some degree with physicians on an equal or dominant-subordinate basis. Whether the mothers trusted the physicians did not relate to whether they shared the initiative or not, but was a primary factor in deciding whether to change hospitals. The mothers became monitors and advocates of their children during treatment, at first choosing to adapt to their subordinate position in the hospital, but becoming more assertive when they felt their children may be seriously harmed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-300
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1997 Feb 1



  • Crisis management
  • Doctor-patient relationship
  • Health care system
  • Mothers
  • Terminal illness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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