Aspirations and worries: The role of parental intrinsic motivation in establishing oral health practices for indigenous children

Publication Name

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (respectfully, subsequently referred to as Indigenous) children in Australia experience oral disease at a higher rate than non-Indigenous children. A his-tory of colonisation, government-enforced assimilation, racism, and cultural annihilation has had profound impacts on Indigenous health, reflected in oral health inequities sustained by Indigenous communities. Motivational interviewing was one of four components utilised in this project, which aimed to identify factors related to the increased occurrence of early childhood caries in Indigenous children. This qualitative analysis represents motivational interviews with 226 participants and explores parents’ motivations for establishing oral health and nutrition practices for their children. Findings suggest that parental aspirations and worries underscored motivations to establish oral health and nutrition behaviours for children in this project. Within aspirations, parents desired for children to ‘keep their teeth’ and avoid false teeth, have a positive appearance, and preserve self-esteem. Parental worries related to child pain, negative appearance, sugar consumption, poor community oral health and rotten teeth. A discussion of findings results in the following recommendations: (1) consideration of the whole self, including mental health, in future oral health programming and research; (2) implementation of community-wide oral health programming, be-yond parent-child dyads; and (3) prioritisation of community knowledge and traditions in oral health programming.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access





Article Number


Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

National Health and Medical Research Council



Link to publisher version (DOI)