Mothers' lay models of the causes and treatment of fever

David Leiser, Eli Doitsch, Joachim Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Mothers' intuitive models concerning the causes of fever in their children and their beliefs about the effects of different treatments were compared to modern, folk and ancient models of the subject. A questionnaire was devised, presenting statements that were generated from the responses in a preliminary study, and from ancient, folk and modern views about fever. This questionnaire was answered by 147 mothers whose youngest child was up to eight years old. The sample consisted of four groups, who differed in their educational background: less than 10 years, 10-12 years and more than 12 years of schooling, and a group of professional nurses. Results reveal a complex picture. Unlike in physics, naive understanding does not duplicate ancient models. With increasing education, the views held by the ancients and contemporary folk beliefs are rejected. Many results of modern science are known throughout the population, and this is true both for practical recommendations and for their rationale. Even so, the medical model is only partly accepted, and is assimilated in a somewhat distorted form.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-387
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1996


  • Fever
  • Home remedies
  • Lay theories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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