Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

Does Maternal-Infant Bonding Therapy Improve Breathing in Asthmatic Children?1

Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

Does Maternal-Infant Bonding Therapy Improve Breathing in Asthmatic Children?1

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: Six mothers of asthmatic children with histories of non-bonding were treated with a therapy aimed at repairing the bond between them and their children. Four of the children were then briefly treated to repair the bond and two infants were not treated. Eighteen variables were studied before treatment, after the mother's treatment, and after the child's treatment. There was improvement in all 18 variables. Five children experienced complete or nearly total improvement in their breathing. The two infants had total remission of symptoms.

This study is the fourth in a series that examines the relationship between maternal-infant bonding and pediatric asthma (Feinberg, 1988; Schwartz, 1988; Pennington, 1992). While there have been clinical reports that asthmatic children improve when the bonding is repaired (Madrid and McPhee, 1986; Madrid and Pennington, 2000), this study looks at the question in a more formal manner and presents a detailed description of the therapy employed.

Since French and Alexander's 1941 article, linking pediatrie asthma to some impairment in the mother-child relationship, clinicians and researchers have been looking into the mother's impact on childhood asthma. In their seminal article, French and Alexander hypothesized that conflict around excessive, unresolved dependence upon the mother was responsible for the child's asthma and that fear of separation from her could trigger an asthma attack. These children were preoccupied with thoughts of maternal rejection, and the asthma attack itself was considered a suppressed cry for the mother. They further observed that maternal rejection is found as a recurrent theme in the life of the asthmatic and that the child feels a need of maternal care and protection. When the child does not achieve this basic nurturance, he reacts with clinging and insecurity.

The theme of maternal rejection found supporters in most of the studies of psychological antecedents of childhood asthma. In reviews of this literature, Schwartz (1988) and Pennington (1992) cite dozens of articles that focused upon the mother's rejection and the child's overdependency as central to the development of asthma. For example, Harris et al. (1949) showed that asthmatic children appeared to have a greater fear of separation from their mother than the members of a control group. Knapp and Nemetz (1957) found that asthmatics showed an intense, clinging dependence. Miller and Baruch (1948) found that 98% of asthmatics studied corroborated evidence of maternal rejection, as compared to 24% of non-asthmatics. Later, Miller and Baruch (1958) found that 97% of mothers in a group of allergic children expressed rejection of their children, as compared to 37% of the non-allergic group.

Pennington cited several articles which identify overprotection in mothers of asthmatics. Pinkerton (1967) discerned three main groups of parental attitudes: over-protective, rejective, and ambivalent. Bentley (1975) found that the parents of non-steroid dependent children were openly resentful of their children. Purcell et al. (1961) found that parents of non-steroid dependent children subscribed to attitudes on child rearing that were hostile and rejecting.

In the same vein, Schwartz (1988) noted that Block et al. (1966) introduced the notion of the "asthmatogenic mother" whose relationship with the child has a direct effect on the frequency and severity of her child's asthma attacks. Both Schwartz and Pennington discussed the remarkable improvement found at CARIH (Children's Asthma Research Institute and Hospital) in Denver, when asthmatic children were removed from their parents and admitted to this hospital (Mascia, 1985; Peshkin, 1959). Almost immediately, these children's symptoms remitted, even though their pillows and dust from their homes were brought to the hospital. These children would retain their good health when returned home, if their parents were not in the house. …

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