PURPOSE: Children with asthma encounter several obstacles in managing their asthma symptoms in schools or social settings. This study assessed the relationship between asthma severity, peer interactions, and psychosocial outcomes in an elementary school cohort.
METHODS: Elementary school aged children (N=835) with asthma participating in a randomized controlled trial were included in this study. Fourteen elementary schools located in an urban area (94% African American) were randomized into a program and “usual care” group. Over 40% of the population met federal poverty guidelines and 93% were between the ages of 7 and 10 years of age. Child-completed interviews were used in this analysis.
RESULTS: At baseline interview, 28% of children reported symptoms associated with mild persistent asthma, 15% with moderate persistent asthma, and 5% with severe asthma. Only 26% (N=262) of the children reported talking to friends about their asthma. Fifty-five percent (N=535) reported that friends understood their feelings about asthma. No differences between the treatment and control groups were found at baseline. Children who talk to their friends about asthma were more likely to report feelings of embarrassment when having an asthma attack around other people (χ2 = 10.36, p<0.001). Children who reported their friends understood their feelings about asthma were more likely to report feelings of embarrassment when having an asthma attack around other people (χ2 = 10.62, p<0.001).
CONCLUSION: Children who share their asthma status with peers are more likely to report negative psychosocial outcomes. Children with friends who understand their asthma status are also more likely to report negative psychosocial outcomes. These findings were not associated with the child's asthma severity level.
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: The role of peer relationships within an elementary-aged population may be under-explored. Future education and/or interventions should be sensitive to the potential negative effects of peer interactions.
DISCLOSURE: Ryan Petteway, None.