Aim. To review systematically qualitative studies, which were found during a literature search for a Cochrane systematic review of the use of family centred care in children's hospitals. Background. Family centred care has become a cornerstone of paediatric practice, however, its effectiveness is not known. No single definition exists, rather a list of elements that constitute family centred care. However, it is recognized to involve the parents in care planning for a child in health services. A new definition is presented here. Methods. The papers were found in wide range of databases, by hand searching and by contacting the authors where necessary, using terms given in detail in the protocol in the Cochrane Library, in 2004. Qualitative studies could not be used for statistical analysis, but are still important to the review and so are described separately in this paper. Results. Negotiation between staff and families, perceptions held by both parents and staff roles influenced the delivery of family centred care. A sub-theme of cost of family centred care to families and staffs was discovered and this included both financial and emotional costs. Conclusion. Further research is needed to generate evidence about family centred care in situations arising from modern models of care in which family centred care is thought to be an inherent part, but which leave families with the care of sick children with little or no support. Relevance to clinical practice. Family centred care is said to be used widely in practice. More research is needed to ensure that is it being implemented correctly.