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Fifteen-minute consultation: Attachment as a model to understand and manage difficult doctor–parent relationships
  1. Annie Swanepoel
  1. Correspondence to Dr Annie Swanepoel, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Elysium Healthcare Ltd, Borehamwood, WD6 1JN, UK; annie.panzer{at}


Paediatricians are often faced with managing the child who is unwell, and parents, who may present in ways that are difficult to manage. Difficult behaviours can range from those who disregard their child’s needs, to those who overstate their child’s minor symptoms, to those who ask for help but then refuse to accept it. This paper gives a framework using attachment theory to help paediatricians recognise, understand and deal with difficult doctor–parent interactions in a way that is appropriate and sensitive. Making changes to the way we communicate with parents can improve outcomes for the child, the family and the doctor’s own well-being.

  • difficult patient
  • difficult doctor-parent relationship
  • attachment theory
  • communication style
  • difficult parent
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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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