Objective: Perception of changes in respiratory symptoms is a critical element in the self-management of pediatric asthma. The purpose of this study was to quantify perceptual accuracy in childhood asthma, to investigate links between symptom perception and functional morbidity, and to examine relationships between psychological variables and perceptual accuracy.
Method: Eighty-six children, aged 8 to 15 years, attending an asthma camp made subjective estimates of asthma severity immediately prior to spirometry an average of 31 times at camp. The correlation coefficient between these measures (the child's accuracy index) was analyzed in relation to morbidity data and to scores on instruments that assessed trait anxiety, repressive coping style, intelligence, behavior problems, and parental symptom-reporting patterns.
Results: A wide range of perceptual ability was found, as children's subjective-objective r ranged from-.39 to .88. Greater perceptual accuracy was significantly related to fewer days missed from school and fewer emergency medical visits. Of the psychological variables assessed, only intelligence was significantly related to accuracy.
Conclusions: Symptom perceptual ability is an important psychosomatic factor affecting the course of asthma for some children. Further study is indicated to understand psychological variables in addition to intelligence that may determine a child's perceptual accuracy.