Core Functions of Communication in Pediatric Medicine: an Exploratory Analysis of Parent and Patient Narratives

  • Bryan A. SiskEmail author
  • Annie B. Friedrich
  • Jessica Mozersky
  • Heidi Walsh
  • James DuBois


Communication in pediatrics is important for psychological well-being and health outcomes. However, consensus is lacking regarding the core functions of communication in pediatrics. The aims of this study were (1) to evaluate whether and how core communication functions from adult oncology apply to communication in pediatric medicine and (2) to examine whether any unique core communication functions exist in pediatric medicine. We analyzed 36 narratives written by parents (n = 23) or former patients (n = 13) describing pediatric communication experiences with clinicians that were published in Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics. Utilizing deductive and inductive coding, we evaluated narratives for evidence of core communication functions previously documented in adult oncology. We also evaluated for novel functions not represented in adult oncology. We identified the presence of all adult core communication functions in pediatric narratives. We also found evidence of a novel function, “engendering solidarity and validation.” We report clinician behaviors that appeared to facilitate or impair these core functions. Core communication functions in adult oncology apply to communication in pediatric medicine, but we also identified a novel communication function in pediatrics.


Communication Pediatrics Patient reported outcomes 



Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Center For Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UL1 TR002345 (BS and JD).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Financial Disclosure

The authors have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© American Association for Cancer Education 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Hematology and Oncology, Department of PediatricsWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care EthicsSaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Division of General Medical Sciences, Department of MedicineWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA

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