Family routines and children's representations: Relations with physical and psychological health in Head Start preschoolers with asthma

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Family routines, Psychological health, Head Start, Preschoolers, Asthma

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The relationship between family routines and mental and physical well being of Head-Start preschoolers with asthma was investigated in a study of 58 caregivers and their children. Family routines have been associated with health and psychological adjustment, both areas of risk for low-income children with asthma. This study asks if a general family routines model will serve a protective function for children with asthma, or if a more disease-specific model of asthma care routines is a better predictor of both asthma severity and behavioral adjustment. Children's story-stem procedures were included in models as a method to assess family representations. The models predicting child behavior (both internalizing and externalizing) tested for the mediational effects of children's representations of general family functioning (with the general routines model) and family response to asthma symptoms (with the disease-specific routines model). Results were that neither model predicted asthma severity or child behavioral adjustment in the ways hypothesized. However, children's representations of family response to asthma symptoms reflected caregivers' reports of family asthma care routines; reports of disease-specific family routines were a better predictor of both internalizing behavior and externalizing behavior in children with asthma than general family routines; and children's representations of general family functioning predicted externalizing behavior. Factors such as child age, aspects of cognitive development, parent distress, family structure, and the nature of asthma care may have influenced findings. Study limitations included low power and the use of mostly self-report measures. Future directions for research and clinical applications, particularly for a Head Start population, are discussed.