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Abstract

Developmental monitoring, an ongoing process to identify children at risk for developmental delays, is an essential component to the identification of a developmental disability in young children. In collaboration with families, medical professionals are expected to monitor the development of a child; however, current research focuses on screening with less attention on developmental monitoring and the role of the family. Here, we show the experiences of families with medical professionals specific to developmental monitoring and how families obtain and develop knowledge on child development. We analyze qualitative data from a sample of family caregivers using semi-structured interviews. With a thematic approach, we identified three themes: (1) developmental monitoring with physicians is not common, (2) families use diverse supports to learn about child development, and (3) contextual factors (e.g., maternal health, work demands, demographic components) influence and shape the child development experience within a family unit. These findings indicate variability in developmental monitoring practices, in addition to the unique needs of children and families.

Plain Language Summary

Accurately identifying a developmental disability is important to ensure young children and families get needed supports. Developmental monitoring is a process where medical professionals work with families to identify children at risk for developmental delays. While family members have important information about their child, many times they are left out of the process. This study sought to better understand family experiences with developmental monitoring. We interviewed family caregivers of children ages birth to five. We found three themes. The first theme is physicians often do not use developmental monitoring. The second theme is families use many ways to learn about child development. This includes community-based programs. The third theme is that contextual factors influence family experiences. There is a need to include families in developmental monitoring. Also, it is important to consider the individual factors and needs of a child and family.

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