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Qualitative methods in the development of a parent survey of children's oral health status.



Parents' perceptions of their 8-17-year-old children's oral health status were assessed using a sample from diverse dental clinics in Greater Los Angeles County to identify constructs for a survey instrument.


Focus groups with 29 parents or guardians were conducted to identify themes that informed development of survey items. The draft items were administered to a different group of 32 parents or guardians in cognitive interviews, and revised for subsequent field-testing.


Thematic and narrative analyses were performed after the focus groups and key lay-oriented dimensions were uncovered, notably the relationship between oral health, systemic health and the life course. In the cognitive interviews, parents entered multiple responses to questions related to the look of their child's teeth, and their overall perception of tooth color. Parents also assessed their child's fear or discomfort with the dental experience, and other social and psychological concerns related to oral health status. The temporal dimensions of certain items were specified; for example, oral pain and mood items were revised to include duration of the symptom or mood state. As parents tended to confuse oral health maintenance and prevention, these two related concepts were separated into two items. Based on the qualitative work, we revised items in preparation for a field test.


As a PRO measurement study, qualitative research informed a field test survey to assess factors associated with oral health status and the individual's perceptions and subjective views of these constructs for eventual item development for epidemiological and clinical use.

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