Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About us Latest news News News articles

Researchers should pay more attention to children’s needs and wishes

18 January 2021

Researchers who conduct medical research into children should pay more attention to their needs and wishes. This would improve the quality of the research and ultimately benefit children’s healthcare. These are the conclusions of Malou Luchtenberg, medical doctor and researcher in Paediatrics at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG). She will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen (UG) on 20 January 2021.

Medical research with children is important for improving child healthcare. But what is the best way to go about this? Ask the children, says Malou Luchtenberg: ‘Children know more about how they experience their health and illness than anyone else. They can also tell you what they consider to be important. Researchers should involve children in their research right from the start to ensure that their needs and wishes are met.’

Helping other children

For her research, Luchtenberg asked children what they considered to be important when they take part in research. She interviewed 23 children and young people between the ages of nine and eighteen, asking them about their experiences. ‘The children told me that they were keen to take part in research because they wanted to help other children in the future, because they hoped that it would help them or to help their doctor.’ Luchtenberg discovered that it is particularly important that children trust the researcher: ‘This makes them feel more comfortable, enables them to ask questions and puts them in a better position to decide whether or not to take part in the research. They also want to hear the results and about how they contributed to the research.’ She found it striking that children want to show that they are not only patients, but that they also do things to help others.

Children as co-researchers

‘We must not treat children like mini-adults but should try to adjust our thinking to their perspective’, says Luchtenberg. So, she asked other children to be her co-researchers and to help her to analyse the interview recordings. She noticed that the children enjoyed learning the new skills that this entailed and that they were happy to contribute to the research and reflect upon illness and health in their direct environment. Children put more emphasis on details, which shows researchers what is important to them, according to Luchtenberg: ‘For example, they have different ideas about the tips that other children give researchers. Such as making the research more enjoyable, or by giving children something to do in the waiting room. Adults may not consider this to be very important but it could be the decisive factor in a child’s decision about whether or not to take part next time.’

This article published in KennisInZicht, the UMCG’s academic magazine, provides more information about Malou Luchtenberg’s research.

Curriculum vitae

Malou Luchtenberg (1991, Amsterdam) studied Medicine at the University of Groningen and followed extracurricular course units in the Faculty of Law. She followed her PhD programme alongside her medical degree programme (MD/PhD track). In 2019, she was awarded a degree in Medicine and won the UMCG Innovation Prize for her idea about giving children and adolescents a role as co-researchers in medical research. The title of her thesis is: ‘A Network of Exchange: Towards the empowerment of children in medical research.’ Luchtenberg is currently working as a medical doctor and researcher in the UMCG’s Beatrix Children’s Hospital.

Banner UMCG
Last modified:22 February 2021 12.58 p.m.
printView this page in: Nederlands

More news

  • 04 March 2021

    Professor Lude Franke awarded Vici grant

    The Dutch Research Council (NWO) has awarded Prof. Lude Franke a Vici grant worth € 1.5 million. The Vici grant will enable him to develop innovative lines of research for the next five years. Vici is one of the largest personal academic grants...

  • 05 February 2021

    Smoking during pregnancy affects the pulmonary health of future grandchildren

    If a woman smokes during pregnancy, there is a higher risk that her future grandchildren will have lung problems and asthma. These are the findings of a study carried out by researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) among 37,000...

  • 03 February 2021

    Mental health at lowest ebb since the start of the coronavirus pandemic

    Our quality of life is now the worst it has been since the start of the coronavirus pandemic: people in the Northern Netherlands currently give their life a score of 6.9. Last summer, this was 7.7 and at the start of the pandemic, it was 7.4. In...