|Supportive family relationship can help youth with asthma. [Tuchong]|
Positive family relationships might help youth to better manage asthma even in the face of difficult neighborhood conditions, according to a study posted on the website of Northwestern University (NU).
Using Google Street View, the researchers took a virtual walk through each of the research participant's Chicago neighborhoods, and code for indicators of neighborhood danger or disorder, including evidence of graffiti, rundown or abandoned cars, bars or grates on windows and doors, and abandoned or boarded-up homes. That gave them a more objective indicator of the level of neighborhood danger and disorder that a participant is likely experiencing on a daily basis as they walk to places from their home.
They then interviewed children about their family relationships and coded the amount of support, trust and conflict that was present, and measured a variety of asthma outcomes — clinical, behavioral and biological — in these children.
"We found significant interactions between neighborhood conditions and family relationship quality predicting clinical asthma outcomes," said Edith Chen, professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at NU and lead author of the study. "When children lived in neighborhoods that were high in danger and disorder, the better their family relationships, the fewer symptoms and activity limitations they had, and the better their pulmonary function."
In contrast, when children lived in neighborhoods that were lower in danger and disorder, their symptoms, activity limitations and pulmonary function were generally good, and the nature of their family relationships didn't really matter.
The research is important to the field of pediatrics because families often don't have options for moving out of neighborhoods that are challenging.
"If pediatricians can provide suggestions to families about how supportive relationships can help with managing their child's asthma, while at the same time still acknowledging the realities of the ongoing neighborhood difficulties that many of these families face, this might help families," Chen said.
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics on Thursday.
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