Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Family mealtimes help children with asthma breathe easier

Children who have asthma are at high risk for separation anxiety, but a new study has found a home remedy that parents can use—regular family mealtimes.

"It makes sense that children who have difficulty breathing might be anxious and prefer to keep their parents, who can help them in an emergency, close by," said Barbara H. Fiese, a University of Illinois professor of human and community development and director of the university's Family Resiliency Center.

Fiese and her colleagues had two guiding questions going into the study. First, is asthma severity, as measured by pulmonary testing and by reported asthma symptoms, related to the development of separation anxiety symptoms in children? Second, can family interaction patterns mediate this relationship? This study reports that the answer to both questions is yes.

"In this study, we identified one important practice that makes a difference. Supportive interaction during family mealtimes helps increase a child's sense of security and eases separation anxiety symptoms. And, when children are less anxious, their lung function improves," she said.

According to Fiese, family members play an important role in helping children emotionally manage their asthma symptoms, adding that a supportive, organized environment during mealtime puts a child at ease whereas a chaotic, unresponsive atmosphere fosters worry and anxiety.

"Children need regularity and predictability," she said. "When families are overwhelmed or lack the skills to keep routines in place, there are often physical and psychological costs to their children. Left untreated, separation anxiety can lead to adult panic disorder."

In the six-week study, 63 9- to 12-year-old children with persistent asthma completed questionnaires and were interviewed about their physical and mental health, including an assessment for separation anxiety. Within one week of the lab visit, a family meal was recorded on video camera. The children's medication use was monitored electronically throughout the study.

The researchers found a relatively strong relationship between compromised lung function and separation anxiety symptoms.

"But, interestingly, we could also see that these intense feelings of concern were related to how the family interacted at mealtime. When children had separation anxiety, their mealtimes were characterized by withdrawal, a lack of engagement, and low levels of communication," she said.

Conversely, family mealtimes that were organized, featured assigned roles, and generated involvement among participants were a protective factor for children.

Why are shared family mealtimes so important? "Few other family activities are repeated with such regularity, allowing children to build up expectations about how their parents and siblings will react from day to day. As a result, kids develop a sense of security. They know someone's there for them. That's important for a child who feels vulnerable," she said.

Fiese recommends that health care providers "prescribe" family mealtimes as a tool for building trust and an opportunity for parents to check in and find out how their children are doing.

The repetitive nature of mealtimes allows parents of children with a chronic health condition to regularly check on their symptoms, quickly remind them to take medications, and plan ahead for the next day's events, she said.

"Unobtrusively, you can ask: are your meds filled up, do you have a doctor's visit this week, is your inhaler in your backpack?

"In this way, family management becomes part of the child's expected environment and reduces the anxious feelings associated with unpredictability and the feeling that things are not in control," she said.

What are the important components of family mealtimes? "Regularity and predictability," she said, "but that doesn't mean dinner always happens at 5:30 or 6 every night because no one's life is like that. We like to shoot for at least four times a week.

"It's also important that parents and other family members show genuine concern about the activities each child is involved in, that marital and other problems aren't discussed at the table, and, finally, that there's an element of planning ahead so that children know an adult is on top of their situation," she said.

When all this occurs, children with asthma may begin to see their symptoms as less threatening, their sense of security in their family relationships will likely be reinforced, and their lung function may improve as a result, she added.

The study, published in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, was co-authored by Marcia A. Winter of Syracuse University; Frederick S. Wamboldt of National Jewish Health; Ran D. Anbar of Upstate Medical University in Syracuse; and Marianne Z. Wamboldt of the University of Colorado, Denver, School of Medicine. It was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

Phyllis Picklesimer | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Asthma symptoms Syracuse anxiety symptoms health services

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>