This study examined the relationship between asthma management strategies used by parents and parental perception of children's vulnerability to illness. Home interviews were conducted with 101 parents of children previously hospitalized with asthma. The child vulnerability scale (CVS) was employed to assess parents' perception of their children's vulnerability to illness. The asthma severity index (ASI) was used to measure the frequency and intensity of asthma symptoms experienced by children in the preceding 12 months. Five markers of parental asthma management were assessed: (i) school absences; (ii) visits to the general practitioner (GP); (iii) visits to the emergency room (ER); (iv) hospitalizations; and (v) whether children are using a regular preventer. After controlling for the frequency and intensity of children's asthma symptoms, parents who perceived that their children were more vulnerable to medical illness were significantly more likely to keep their children home from school (P = 0.01), were more likely to take their children to the GP for acute asthma care (P = 0.02), and were more likely to be giving their children regular preventer medication (P = 0.02). In contrast, the use of tertiary pediatric care services was not significantly associated with parental perceptions of their children's vulnerability. The results suggest that parental attitudes and beliefs about the vulnerability of their children to illness were associated with greater use of GP services by parents and more frequent school absences for children. The use of hospital services by parents appeared to be more strongly associated with the actual level of children's asthma symptoms than their vulnerability to illness.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.