Middle Eastern voluntary immigrant parents' experiences of child healthcare services in Northern Ireland
: A qualitative study

  • Nadhira Karim

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy



Globally there continues to be an increase in the number of voluntary and non-voluntary migrants. In 2019, the UK records show that 3.1 million visas were issued to immigrants for various purposes including study, work, family unification and a range of other reasons (Migration Statistics, 2020). Against this background, there has been limited study of voluntary immigrant parents’ experiences of child healthcare services in Northern Ireland.

Aim of the Study

The aim of the study is to explore the experiences of immigrant parents in relation totheir engagement with child healthcare services and specifically to understand Middle Eastern voluntary immigrant parents’ experiences of child healthcare services in Northern Ireland.


First, a systematic review of the literature on voluntary immigrant parents’ experiences was undertaken. Second, a qualitative study exploring Middle Eastern parents’ experiences was carried out in Northern Ireland. Purposive sampling was used to recruit voluntary immigrant parents from the Middle East (n=28). The recruited parents were interviewed using a semi-structured interview method between Marchand August 2019. Inductive thematic analysis of the interview data was carried out using the model of Braun and Clark (2006). Deductive analysis of the data was undertaken using the Immigrant Health Service Utilization theoretical model devised by Yang and Hwang (2016). NVivo11 software was used for data management. 


The thematic synthesis identified three principal themes: navigation, trust and balance. The results of the qualitative study showed that immigrant parents experienced difficulties while attending child healthcare services. These barriers were systematic and were related to the context of immigration and factors outside parents’ control and involved governmental requirements and the healthcare system, such as language and cultural barriers and unfamiliarity with healthcare services which impaired access to child healthcare services for immigrant parents. Most of the participants reported positive experiences with the healthcare system resulting from parents’ and healthcare professionals’ communication and interaction, successful navigation and reaching a balance within the new and unfamiliar healthcare service.


This study adds an understanding of Middle Eastern voluntary immigrant parents’ experiences of child healthcare services in Northern Ireland. Overall, the findings show that voluntary Middle Eastern immigrant parents were satisfied with the healthcare services in Northern Ireland. Even so, most of the participants had experienced difficulties with the registration process when they encountered it for the first time. This problem was compounded by language and cultural barriers for several of the participants. It is recommended that proper support and guidance with the initial registration process should be provided and that culturally competent healthcare services will enhance voluntary immigrant parents’ future access and outcomes.

Date of AwardJul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsKurdistan region government/Iraq
SupervisorMaria Lohan (Supervisor), Claire Kerr (Supervisor) & Breidge Boyle (Supervisor)


  • Immigrant
  • voluntary immigrant
  • parents
  • experiences
  • child healthcare services
  • Middle East

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