Some psycho-social aspects of childhood asthma
Asthma is one of the most frequently reported types of chronic illness in children. In an attempt to increase our understanding of childhood asthma in general, and of the individual variations in its clinical severity and the epidemiological variations in its prevalence, a series of social psychological investigations were conducted. Thirty children with asthma and their mothers were interviewed about various facets of the illness. Content analysis of their replies showed that the children with the more mild clinical symptoms, and their mothers, had the more optimistic and sophisticated views of the nature of, and treatment for, asthma. It is suggested that such views may actually help diminish the clinical severity of the children's asthma. The thirty children with asthma and thirty others without asthma answered a test designed to examine how 'responsible' they considered children with and without asthma to be. The children without asthma praised children with asthma more than they blamed them, whereas they blamed children without asthma more than they praised them. This attributional tendency would discourage children without asthma from interacting with children who they perceived as having asthma. The children with asthma, themselves,praised both children with and without asthma more than they blamed them. This attributional tendency would enduce a feeling of helplessness, a sensitivity to adverse comments, and a desire for frequent praise among children with asthma. Both groups of children described their friends and their families. The children with asthma were less able to differentiate their friends and their siblings from themselves and their environment. These children would be awkward in their interaction with their peers and siblings and would find it difficult to establish stable relationships with them. Their reported lack of participation in physical games would exaggerate these problems. The children with more severe clinical asthma reported certain peculiarities in their homelife which may be a reaction to the illness. Teachers answered a questionnaire about the children's classroom behaviour. The children with asthma were more often described as withdrawn and lacking in confidence. The children with more clinically severe asthma were more dissatisfied with school. In conclusion, the different findings are drawn together to provide a social psychological explanation of the different characteristics of childhood asthma. As a result, certain therapeutic strategies are suggested which might help diminish both the extent of the psychological problems of children with asthma and the clinical severity of their illness.