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African American caregivers, Asthma, Childhood chronic illness, Ethnography



  1. Sterling, Yvonne M. DNSc, RN,C
  2. Peterson, Jane W. PhD, RN


Purpose: To describe the attributes and characteristics of African American women who were the primary caregivers of children with asthma.


Methods: Descriptive qualitative ethnography. Data collection consisted of formal interviews, participant observation, and fieldnotes. Each study participant was formally and informally interviewed (audiotaped) during a 1-year period. The researchers also observed and participated in family activities in various naturalistic settings.


Results: Six themes emerged that depict the characteristics of these women: (1) Knowledge about the child's asthma; (2) Gatekeepers to the child's care; (3) Being religious; (4) Support; (5) Roles as teacher, counselor, and advisor to the child; and (6) Self-sufficiency and industriousness.


Clinical Implications: Nurses should use the information in this study to examine the ways in which they interact with caregivers of asthmatic children. The caregivers personal beliefs, need for information, and previous experiences with asthma and family illness should be assessed. These mothers and grandmothers should be respected as the gatekeeper to the family's healthcare. Nurses should be nonjudgmental and supportive of caregivers when they express their religious beliefs and practices. Nurses who understand how mothers cope can reinforce these coping skills and provide better nursing care.