Children's perceptions of health and illness: images and lay concepts in preadolescence

Health Educ Res. 2006 Oct;21(5):643-53. doi: 10.1093/her/cyl034. Epub 2006 Jun 1.


Despite a growing body of research into children's concepts of illness, many basic questions still remain. This study aims to describe 8- to 11-year olds' lay beliefs of health, illness, health promotion and disease prevention. Children responded to open-ended questions about health and illness by drawing and writing their responses. Two primary schools of two small towns of Békés County, Hungary, were invited to participate. The sample consisted of 128 primary school students (57% males and 43% females), one class from each of Grades 3, 4 and 5 within each location. Consistent with previous findings, the children of this sample have considerable knowledge about health, illness and disease risks. In addition, they seem health conscious and hold positive attitudes toward health and health promotion. Many respondents demonstrated a biomedical approach to health. At the same time, holistic views of health were also common. Children's past experiences (e.g. trivial infections) may play an important role in their concepts of disease causation. Ideas about health promotion were especially varied, with a few children describing complex guidelines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Hungary
  • Male
  • Perception*
  • Psychology, Child