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Health Educ Behav. 2012 Feb;39(1):67-76. doi: 10.1177/1090198111407187. Epub 2011 May 17.

Age and ethnic differences in cold weather and contagion theories of colds and flu.

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Department of Psychology, The George Washington University, 2125 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20052, USA.


Age and ethnic group differences in cold weather and contagion or germ theories of infectious disease were explored in two studies. A cold weather theory was frequently invoked to explain colds and to a lesser extent flu but became less prominent with age as children gained command of a germ theory of disease. Explanations of how contact with other people causes disease were more causally sophisticated than explanations of how cold weather causes it. Finally, Mexican American and other minority children were more likely than European American children to subscribe to cold weather theories, a difference partially but not wholly attributable to ethnic group differences in parent education. Findings support the value of an intuitive or naïve theories perspective in understanding developmental and sociocultural differences in concepts of disease and in planning health education to help both children and their parents shed misconceptions so that they can focus on effective preventive actions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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