NoAims and objectives. The current study sought to identify how many mothers from 149 visits carried out by seven health visitors identified support as a feature of the visit, whether this type of support was unique to the health visitor and what support meant to them. These responses were then compared with the taxonomies of social support from the social support literature. Background. Some studies of client perceptions describe support as an element of home visits by health visitors. However, the importance, relevance and impact on the client of this support are not described in detail. Social support theory suggests that there are tangible benefits to people's well-being and their ability to cope with various challenges that may arise from individuals' perceptions of receiving support. Design. Qualitative study using semistructured interviews. Methods. Seven volunteer health visitors recruited 149 women into the study. These clients were interviewed by the researcher, usually within one week of the home visit by their health visitor. The discussions were audio-taped and the resulting transcripts analysed using content analysis. Findings. Thirty-seven women identified receiving support which they said was only available from the health visitor. The relevance of this support to the mother and the impact on her well-being varied within the group suggesting differing perceptions of support by clients according to their personal situation. There was a correspondence between the descriptions of support given by the women and the taxonomies of social support from the social support literature. Conclusion. For some interactions between clients and their health visitors the existing theory of social support may provide an explanation of how health visitors contribute to clients' perceived ability to cope and well-being. Relevance to clinical practice. Social support may be defined as a possible outcome of health visiting. This concept will have use within educational programmes to demonstrate to students how health visiting can have an impact on clients' well-being. Similarly, the concept could be used to investigate and record health visiting practice
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