Qualitative Health Research
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In this study, we attempted to explore the experiences and beliefs of Aboriginal families as they cared for their children in the first year of life. We collected family stories concerning child rearing, development, behavior, health, and wellbeing between each infant’s birth and first birthday. We found significant differences in parenting behaviors and childrearing practices between Aboriginal groups and mainstream Australians. Aboriginal parents perceived their children to be autonomous individuals with responsibilities toward a large family group. The children were active agents in determining their own needs, highly prized, and included in all aspects of community life. Concurrent with poverty, neocolonialism, and medical hegemony, child-led parenting styles hamper the effectiveness of health services. Hence, until the planners of Australia’s health systems better understand Aboriginal knowledge systems and incorporate them into their planning, we can continue to expect the failure of government and health services among Aboriginal communities.