Family Functioning and Child Asthma Severity: A Bio-Behavioral Approach

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Abstract

Introduction: Family factors are directly associated with the psychosocial adjustment of children with chronic illnesses such as asthma (Kaugars, Klinnert, & Bender, 2004). Research indicates that negative family factors may also contribute to child disease severity via bio-behavioral mechanisms of effect. For instance, children from more conflicted families often experience greater internalizing symptoms that subsequently impact their asthma severity (Wood et al., 2006). These pathways have yet to be examined with a comprehensive focus on strength-based family factors. This study examined whether factors such as family cohesion, problem-solving abilities, and communication influence asthma severity via their effects on child depression and anxiety symptoms. Method: Participants were 215 children (136 males and 79 females), ages 5 to 12 years old, and their families. Primary caregiver, child, and teacher ratings of child and family functioning in addition to objective measures of parent–child interactions and asthma severity were collected. Results: Using structural equation modeling, the authors identified significant indirect associations between family factors and child asthma severity via child depressive symptoms; however, these associations were not present in models with child anxiety symptoms. Discussion: Results suggest an indirect effect of family functioning on children’s lung function, with differential roles of anxiety and depression in these pathways. This article also highlights the importance of incorporating multirater multimethod measures to understand children’s experiences in pediatric asthma.

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