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childhood asthma, health disparities, medication regimen, parental illness representation



  1. Yoos, H. Lorrie
  2. Kitzman, Harriet
  3. Henderson, Charles
  4. McMullen, Ann
  5. Sidora-Arcoleo, Kimberly
  6. Halterman, Jill S.
  7. Anson, Elizabeth


Background: Despite significant advances in treatment modalities, morbidity due to childhood asthma has continued to increase, particularly for poor and minority children.


Objectives: To describe the parental illness representation of asthma in juxtaposition to the professional model of asthma and to evaluate the impact of that illness representation on the adequacy of the child's medication regimen.


Methods: Parents (n = 228) of children with asthma were interviewed regarding illness beliefs using a semistructured interview. The impact of background characteristics, parental beliefs, the child's symptom interpretation, and the parent-healthcare provider (HCP) relationship on the adequacy of the child's medication regimen were evaluated.


Results: The parental and professional models of asthma differ markedly. Demographic risk factors (p = .005), low parental education (p < .0001), inaccurate symptom evaluation by the child (p = .02), and a poor parent-HCP relationship (p < .0001) had a negative effect on the parental illness representation. A parental illness representation concordant with the professional model of asthma (p = .05) and more formal asthma education (p = .02) had a direct positive effect on the medication regimen. Demographic risk factors (p = .006) and informal advice-seeking (p = .0003) had a negative impact on the regimen. The parental illness representation mediated the impact of demographic risk factors (p = .10), parental education (p =.07), and the parent-HCP relationship (p = .06) on the regimen.


Discussion: Parents and HCPs may come to the clinical encounter with markedly different illness representations. Establishing a partnership with parents by eliciting and acknowledging parental beliefs is an important component of improving disease management.