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Rev Saude Publica. 2000 Oct;34(5):484-90.

Causal attributions in Brazilian children's reasoning about health and illness.

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  • 1Departamento de Psicologia Educacional, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brasil.



At a time when a great number of diseases can be prevented by changing one's habits and life style, investigations have focused on understanding what adults and children believe to be desirable health practices and uncovering the factors associated with successful adherence to such practices. For these, causal attributions for health and illness were investigated among 96 Brazilian elementary school students.


Ninety six subjects, aged 6 to 14, were interviewed individually and their causal attributions were assessed through 14 true-false items (e.g. people stay well [healthy] because they are lucky). The relationship between the children's causal attributions and demographic characteristics were also examined.


Overall, the results were consistent with previous researches. "Taking care of oneself" was considered the most important cause of good health. "Viruses and germs" and "lack of self-care" were the most selected causes of illness. Analyses revealed significant relationship between subjects' causal attribution and their age, school grade level, socioeconomic status and gender.


The study findings suggest that there may be more cross-cultural similarities than differences in children's causal attributions for health and illness. Finding ways to help individuals engage in appropriate preventive-maintenance health practices without developing an exaggerated notion that the individuals can control their own health and illness is a challenge which remains to be addressed by further research.

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