Meeting the needs of vulnerable families: An ethnographic study of parental experiences of supportive maternity health care services in the ante – and postnatal period

Project Details


The first years of a child’s life has significant impact on their future health and well-being. In Denmark focus is on early intervention and prevention to promote social equity in pregnancy. To meet the needs of vulnerable families the maternity care sector offers extended individualized services to families fac-ing social, medical or psychological challenges. To access and engage families, research documents the importance of the professional-lay relationship. However, vulnerable families tend to be mistrusting of the health care system due to prior experiences with stigmatization, fear of being judged as unfit par-ents and disagreement or resistance towards the assessment. For these relationships to be successful development and maintenance of trust is important if families are to openly disclose their problems. Existing research fails to incorporate a focus on the family and the perspectives of vulnerable fathers are often left out, despite evidence that fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives have significant impact on their development. To fill the knowledge gap in the existing literature, the PhD-project is designed as a longitudinal ethnographic field study exploring how vulnerable families experience the maternity care services offered by Aalborg Municipality. The Ph.D.-project follows vulnerable families on their way through the maternity care sector and will generate data through participant observation and semi-structured interviews. The objective is to provide in-depth knowledge on vulnerable families’ experiences and identify needs and challenges. The objective will be addressed through three sub-studies exploring encounters between health professionals and vulnerable families, exploring how families respond to being identified as vulnerable, and exploring how vulnerable fathers experience their journeys in the maternity health care sector. Thus, the Ph.D.-project offers new insights on the relationship between professionals and vulnerable families, on families’ experiences with being offered targeted services and on vulnerable fathers’ needs. In these ways, the Ph.D. project identifies ways of improving the quality of services provided for vulnerable families, and thereby contributes to the re-duction of social inequity in health at an early stage.
Effective start/end date01/12/201731/12/2020