"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!
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences