This study, conducted on the Kenyan coast, assesses the effect of intra-household relations on maternal treatment-seeking. Rural and urban Mijikenda mothers’ responses to childhood fevers in the last 2 weeks (n=317), and to childhood convulsions in the previous year (n=43), were documented through survey work. The intra-household relations and decision-making dynamics surrounding maternal responses were explored through in-depth individual and group interviews, primarily with women (n=223). Responses to convulsions were more likely than responses to fevers to include a healer consultation (p<0·0001), and less likely to include the purchase of over-the-counter medications (p<0·0001). Mothers received financial or advisory assistance from others in 71% (n=236) of actions taken outside the household in response to fevers. In-depth interviews suggested that general agreement on appropriate therapy results in relatively few intra-household conflicts over the treatment of fevers. Disputes over perceived cause and appropriate therapy of convulsions, however, highlighted the importance of age, gender and relationship to household head in intra-household relations and treatment decision-making. Although mothers’ treatment-seeking preferences are often circumscribed by these relations, a number of strategies can be drawn upon to circumvent ‘inappropriate’ decisions, sometimes with implications for future household responses to similar syndromes. The findings highlight the complexity of intra-household relations and treatment decision-making dynamics. Tentative implications for interventions aimed at improving the home management of malaria, and for further research, are presented.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.