As parents, all we want for our kids is for them to be healthy and happy, and grow up confident in the fact that we will support them no matter what. For most of us, that means loving our kids, being there for them, and being their biggest champions. For parents of kids who suffer from some common childhood illnesses, it can mean so much more. A new study suggests that strong family relationships may improve outcomes for kids who have asthma, even in the face of less than desirable neighborhood conditions. The data from the study can help pediatricians better guide families in managing their children's asthma, and are so important for kids.
It can be very difficult for kids to manage their asthma. There are so many factors to consider, like the role of allergens and pollutants. But one lesser-researched area may also have an impact: the social conditions in the neighborhood where the child lives. We all know it takes a village, but when that village is not a safe or supportive place, it can negatively impact all aspects of a child's life, including their health.
To determine whether or not difficult neighborhood conditions can be equalized by strong, supportive family relationships, researchers at Northwestern University studied the neighborhoods of study participants. Using Google Street View, they were able to virtually walk through each of the neighborhoods in Chicago. They looked for danger indicators, like graffiti, rundown or abandoned buildings and homes, and bars or grates on windows.
These details gave them an objective indicator of the level of danger and disorder in the neighborhood that the participant was experiencing on a regular basis.
Researchers then interviewed participants about their family relationships to determine the level of support, trust, and conflict that was present in each family. Finally, they measured outcomes of their asthma management, including clinical, biological, and behavioral outcomes.
They found that children who reported having more family support and stronger family relationships had fewer symptoms and activity limitations, and therefore had better outcomes in managing their asthma. It really drives home just how important strong family relationships are, and hopefully doctors can use this information to counsel families on managing their child's asthma.