Psychosocial factors contribute to development of asthma in genetically at-risk children, study finds

October 01, 2001

ROCHESTER, MINN. -- A new prospective study finds that early parenting difficulties are associated with the development of asthma in genetically at-risk children between the ages of six and eight. The study in which Mayo Clinic participated, appears in the October issue of Pediatrics.

Asthma is an allergic condition that causes labored breathing and can be life-threatening. It is the most common chronic illness of childhood, according to an article on Its prevalence has risen sharply in inner-city children over the past decade. One in nine children now has the condition.

"The fact that parenting difficulties assessed in the first three weeks of life were significantly and independently associated with asthma at school age is a remarkable and previously unreported finding," says David Mrazek, M.D., chair of Mayo Clinic's Department of Psychiatry and Psychology and an author on the paper.

Parenting difficulties include maternal depressed mood and coping problems, relationship conflicts, absence of social support, and problems providing sensitive and responsive care taking. Parenting difficulties generally focus on the emotional care-giving environment, not on external stresses.

Investigators from the National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Mayo Clinic and Colorado Allergy and Asthma Centers have studied this group of 150 children with a family history of asthma for eight years. The children were considered genetically at risk for asthma because all their mothers and some of their fathers had asthma.

"Asthma is a complex disease with many contributing factors," said Mary Klinnert, Ph.D., National Jewish pediatric psychologist and lead author of the study. "Many of the children in our study with well-adjusted, caring, effective parents still developed asthma. But our results do indicate that the psychological environment of the child may play a role in the development of asthma."

Researchers originally assessed study participants for medical and psychosocial functioning during the third trimester of pregnancy. Before the infants developed any symptoms of asthma, an experienced clinician conducted a home visit to assess parenting difficulties when the infants were three weeks old.

Parents were rated on a three-point scale:

1) things are going OK;
2) there are potential problems that should be reassessed; and
3) there are clear problems in the care and emotional environment of the child.

Of the 150 children studied, 40 (28 percent) had developed asthma by the time they were between six and eight years of age. Children whose parents coped poorly with the demands of parenting during their baby's first weeks of life were more than twice as likely to develop asthma than were children whose parents were assessed as parenting adequately.

"Human emotions are powerful, even though we sometimes try to deny it," Dr. Mrazek says. "But this study shows that emotional distress experienced early in life can have long-term health consequences. It's important not to blame parents, but to support them in doing their best to provide a nurturing environment."

In other findings, the study also corroborates previous reports that an elevated blood level of the antibody immunoglobulin E is associated with later development of asthma is this at-risk group.

Mayo Clinic

Related Asthma Articles from Brightsurf:

Breastfeeding and risks of allergies and asthma
In an Acta Paediatrica study, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 3 months was linked with a lower risk of respiratory allergies and asthma when children reached 6 years of age.

Researchers make asthma breakthrough
Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have made a breakthrough that may eventually lead to improved therapeutic options for people living with asthma.

Physics vs. asthma
A research team from the MIPT Center for Molecular Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Diseases has collaborated with colleagues from the U.S., Canada, France, and Germany to determine the spatial structure of the CysLT1 receptor.

New knowledge on the development of asthma
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have studied which genes are expressed in overactive immune cells in mice with asthma-like inflammation of the airways.

Eating fish may help prevent asthma
A scientist from James Cook University in Australia says an innovative study has revealed new evidence that eating fish can help prevent asthma.

Academic performance of urban children with asthma worse than peers without asthma
A new study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows urban children with poorly controlled asthma, particularly those who are ethnic minorities, also suffer academically.

Asthma Controller Step Down Yardstick -- treatment guidance for when asthma improves
The focus for asthma treatment is often stepping up treatment, but clinicians need to know how to step down therapy when symptoms improve.

Asthma management tools improve asthma control and reduce hospital visits
A set of comprehensive asthma management tools helps decrease asthma-related visits to the emergency department, urgent care or hospital and improves patients' asthma control.

Asthma linked to infertility but not among women taking regular asthma preventers
Women with asthma who only use short-acting asthma relievers take longer to become pregnant than other women, according to research published in the European Respiratory Journal.

What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma?
A team of experts from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston examined the current information available from many different sources on diagnosing and managing mild to moderate asthma in adults and summarized them.

Read More: Asthma News and Asthma Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to