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Br J Gen Pract. Mar 2003; 53(488): 185–190.
PMCID: PMC1314542

Qualitative study of young people's and parents' beliefs about childhood asthma.


BACKGROUND: Asthma continues to be a common childhood chronic illness managed principally in primary care. Self-management requires co-ordinated efforts of young people, carers and health professionals. Non-compliance occurs even when parents are supervising care, suggesting that decisions are made on the basis of beliefs that contrast with professional advice. Health professionals therefore need to understand the views of parents (or other carers) and patients to promote good self-management. Little attention has been given to carers' and young people's perspectives on asthma. AIM: To gain insights into the beliefs of a group of 25 young people aged nine to 16 years old and their carers about asthma and its management. DESIGN OF STUDY: Qualitative study using conversational-style interviews. SETTING: Generally deprived urban areas of Greater Manchester. METHOD: Interviews were conducted with 25 young people with asthma and separately with their carers. The interviews were analysed using the principles and procedures of grounded theory. RESULTS: Carers reported assessing asthma symptoms through observed effects on the child and other family members, including emotions and behaviours that disrupted family life. Young people emphasised the effect of asthma on their everyday lives and in particular the extent to which they appeared different to their peers. Some young people reported continuing symptoms and restrictions of activity that differed widely from the reports of their carers. CONCLUSION: Differences between young people's and carers' criteria for assessment suggest explanations for some 'non-compliant' behaviour. Carers' assessment of asthma severity through the absence of acute attacks is consistent with managing asthma as intermittent acute episodes. Professionals should take account of differences between young people's, carers' and professionals' perceptions of asthma.

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Selected References

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