BACKGROUND: Inappropriate use of antibiotics can promote bacterial resistance, which is a growing public health concern. As children are amongst the highest recipients of antibiotics, understanding the drivers of parental decisions towards their children's antibiotic use is imperative for the development of strategies to assist parents in making more informed decisions. This is particularly relevant to the decisions of parents living in resource-limited settings. This study explored the perspectives and practices of parents living in a rural setting about the use of antibiotics in their children.
METHODS: Three focus group interviews were conducted with 10 parents of children under 12yrs, living in rural and remote areas of the Northern Territory, Australia. A focus group guide was developed to facilitate discussions, which was informed by the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Transcripts were analysed abductively using thematic analysis.
FINDINGS: Four themes emerged explaining factors that contributed to parent decisions about their children's antibiotic use: 1) Parental knowledge, attitudes and decision making; 2) Perceptions of antimicrobial resistance; 3) Healthcare challenges; 4) Behaviours with antibiotics. While parents demonstrated accurate knowledge of the indications for antibiotic use, their decisions about the need for antibiotics were often driven by fear of serious illness. This fear was exacerbated by resource limitations associated with living in a resource-limited setting. Additional drivers of parental decision making included what parents have read or heard from both medical and non-medical networks, underscoring the importance of Social Norms in predicting behavioural intentions.
CONCLUSION: Mothers living in remote areas experiencing reduced access to health services may make decisions about antibiotic use out of fear and based on the advice of their personal network when they perceive their child is vulnerable to a health threat. Findings from this study provide guidance for future research in the prediction of antibiotic use behaviours and for context-specific interventions.