While parents’ influence on their children’s smoking behaviour is widely recognised, little is known about parents of four to eight year olds’ attitudes and beliefs around smoking cessation and how they communicate with their children about smoking. The purpose of this paper is to explore parents’ perceptions of quitting smoking and their beliefs and actions related to the use of parenting practices to discourage smoking by their children.
Four focus groups and 17 interviews were conducted with parents (n=46) of four to eight year old children in Perth, Western Australia.
Many parents indicated their children strongly influenced their quitting behaviours, however, some resented being made to feel guilty about their smoking because of their children. Parents were divided in their beliefs about the amount of influence they had on their children’s future smoking. Feelings of hypocrisy appear to influence the extent to which parents who smoked talked with their child about smoking. Parents recommended a variety of resource options to support quitting and talking with their child about smoking.
Interventions aimed at parents who smoke and have young children should: reinforce parents’ importance as role models; highlight the importance of talking to children about smoking when they are young and provide strategies for maintaining ongoing communication; be supportive and avoid making parents feel guilty; and emphasise that quitting smoking is the best option for their child’s health (and their own), while also providing effective harm minimisation options for parents who have not yet quit.
Parents of children of lower primary school age can be highly influential on their children’s later smoking behaviours, thus, effective interventions that address the current beliefs and practices of these parents may be particularly advantageous.
This research was supported by the Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation (Healthway), through research grant no. 16188. The authors would like to express their appreciation to all the parents and carers who participated in this study, and thank Renee Campbell-Pope for her diligent work on this project.
Johnston, R., Hearn, L., Cross, D., Thomas, L.T. and Bell, S. (2015), "Parent voices guide smoking intervention development", Health Education, Vol. 115 No. 5, pp. 455-469. https://doi.org/10.1108/HE-03-2014-0024
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