A multicomponent model has been developed to explain patients' unmet expectations of medical care. The model proposes that expectations are related to patients' personal experiences with illness, perceived vulnerability to disease, transmitted knowledge, and perceived severity of disease. The objective of this cross-sectional study was to determine whether this model can be applied to patients' unrealistic expectations of treatment outcomes, specifically expecting to be cured of asthma. In total, 230 patients observed in a primary care practice in New York City were interviewed in person with open-ended questions about their expectations of asthma treatment. Responses were analyzed with qualitative techniques to generate categories of expectations. Patients had a mean age of 41 +/- 11 years, 21% were white, 30% African American, 42% Latino, and 7% other groups. Major categories of expectations were generated from patients' responses and included symptom relief (expected by 52%), cure (36%), improved physical function (21%), and improved psychological well-being (15%). The category of expecting a cure was assessed with patients' responses to the following items representing components of the model: 1) resource utilization and medication requirements for asthma (representing severity of disease); 2) perceived quality of asthma care and satisfaction with care (representing past asthma experiences); 3) the Asthma Self-Efficacy Scale (representing perceived vulnerability to exacerbations); and 4) experiences of social network contacts with asthma and the Check Your Asthma IQ survey (representing transmitted knowledge). In bivariate analysis, patients who expected a cure were more likely to be Latino or Native American or Asian (p = 0.02), to have never required oral corticosteroids (p = 0.004), to be dissatisfied with the status of their asthma (p = 0.008), to know others who were limited by asthma (p = 0.03), to have worse Asthma Self-Efficacy Scale scores (p = 0.002), to have worse Check Your Asthma IQ scores (p = 0.04), and to currently be taking inhaled corticosteroids (p = 0.03). In multivariate analysis, worse asthma self-efficacy (p = 0.008), never having required oral corticosteroids (p = 0.005), and currently taking inhaled corticosteroids (p = 0.05) remained associated with expecting a cure. As a result of this study, we found that patients have multiple expectations of asthma treatment, including realistic expectations such as symptom relief and improved function, as well as unrealistic expectations, specifically to be cured of asthma. A multicomponent model of patient and disease characteristics was associated with this unrealistic expectation. These findings indicate that clinicians can intervene in diverse areas to foster realistic expectations of treatment outcomes among asthma patients.