Interpersonal comparison among caregivers of children with asthma

Psychol Health. 2022 Sep 22;1-20. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2022.2125514. Online ahead of print.


Objective: We examined the extent to which caregivers of children with asthma used interpersonal comparisons-a novel comparison process that parallels social comparison and temporal comparison-to form judgments about their child. Methods & Measures: Using semi-structured interviews adapted from the McGill Illness Narrative Interview, we examined the interpersonal comparisons that caregivers of a child with asthma (n = 41) made regarding their child. Results: Interpersonal comparisons influenced caregiver thoughts, feelings, and behavior. They helped caregivers distinguish asthma from other breathing problems, evaluate the severity of the asthma, and understand their child's experience. However, they also created uncertainty by highlighting the complex, unpredictable nature of asthma. Interpersonal comparisons were a source of gratitude and hope, but also worry and frustration. Finally, interpersonal comparisons influenced caregivers' decisions and actions, resulting in decisions that aligned with and, at times, ran counter to biomedical models of asthma care. In some instances, caregivers used interpersonal comparisons to motivate their child's behavior. Conclusion: The interpersonal comparisons served as a source of information for caregivers trying to understand and manage their child's asthma. Investigating these comparisons also expands how we think about other comparison theories.

Keywords: Social comparison; adolescents; temporal comparison.