Handbook of Health Psychology

By Andrew Baum; Tracey A. Revenson et al. | Go to book overview

26
Childhood Health Issues
Across the Life Span
Barbara G. Melamed
Barrie Kaplan
Joshua Fogel
Yeshiva University
Drotar et al. (1989) reviewed two decades of child health research and proclaimed the need for a developmental perspective to guide the focus of health promotion. This would also pinpoint where and by whom the site of delivery of services should occur. Some of the factors that make children likely to develop illness are genetic (family history of disease) and environmental (poverty, crowding, lack of nutrition). These factors are difficult to alter. In addition, the mental health of the parents and their level of functioning at the time of their child's incipient illness is likely to determine how soon a child receives access to health care treatment, and how effectively the recommended treatment program can be implemented. For instance, many parents either cannot afford or do not completely understand the concept of prolonged medication even when the symptoms have abated (i.e., antibiotic treatment). Even when parents are psychologically well adjusted there are numerous problems that can exacerbate stress, including:
1. Establishing relationships with medical personnel (Moos, 1977).
2. Coping with medical procedures associated with treatment.
3. Coping with symptoms associated with the condition (whether it is acute or chronic) (Moos, 1977).
4. Coping with the possible separation from parents, other family members, and friends.
5. Coping with the new social pressures such as being labeled as “ill” or having a medical problem.
6. Coping with the limitations that result from a change in lifestyle (e.g., diabetic children must change their diets, asthmatic children must exercise caution during physical activity).
7. Stress of missing school and acclimating during the return to school.
8. Coping with the added burden facing the entire family, including time and money.

Some protection for the child is afforded by certain policy regulations. Unfortunately, access to public health for immunization and inoculation against childhood illness is not as universal as school requirements. Once a child has been admitted to the public school system, further immunizations for new diseases may not be as successful as in the earlier years. In addition, environmentally induced problems exist. Asthma or lead poisoning are difficult to change in the absence of laws protecting children from environmental contaminants. Accidental deaths by falling from heights and seat belt wearing are often prevented only when the absence of window guards and wrong application or absence of seat belts are enforced by penalty. Even in these cases, new incidents of infant death by inappropriate inflation of automobile air bags may confuse parents about the proper precautions. Parents often misunderstand

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