Origins and stability of children's health beliefs relative to medicine use

Soc Sci Med. 1988;27(4):345-52. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(88)90268-7.


Two hundred and seventy urban school children and their primary caretakers (93% mothers) were interviewed in Washington, D.C., about their health beliefs and behaviors relative to medicine use and expected medicine use for common health problems to test hypotheses about the development of children's health beliefs and behaviors. Results indicated that mothers have a stronger influence on health related orientations of children than previously indicated and that these orientations are relatively stable by school age. Strong similarities were observed between primary caretakers and their children in a health belief based model to predict expected medicine use, and significant correlations between primary caretakers and children were observed for almost three-fourths of the variables in the model; correlations were not higher between mothers and older children than between mothers and younger children, nor were means of variables closer to those of mothers for older than for younger children. Most model variables were stable for children over a 3 year period, and measurement in the earlier period predicted medicine use and expected medicine use 3 years later. Only weak developmental effects were suggested, primarily by perceived vulnerability to illness, a powerful predictor in adult representations of the Health Belief Model, but relatively weak in children's representations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Child
  • Drug Utilization*
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Mothers