Shippensburg University
Psychology Department

PSI High Newsletter

Volume 26, No. 1
October, 2001


How should you respond to a student's asthma attack?

Research on asthma management in classrooms

In the United States, about five million persons under the age of 18 have asthma, making it the leading chronic health condition for males in that age group and the second most common chronic condition for females.

In research presented at the 2001 Eastern Psychological Association meeting in Washington, DC ("Asthma Management in the Classroom: A New Role for Teachers?"), Shippensburg University psychology professor Scott Madey and psychology graduate student Tamara Musumeci reported on their survey of 73 teachers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The researchers assessed how much teachers knew about asthma and how prepared they were to handle asthma-related medical issues in the classroom.

Symptoms of an asthma attack can include any of the following: heaving chest, wheezing, pressure on the chest, inability to speak, blue tinge to lips and fingernails, exhaustion, noisy breathing, hunching shoulders, shallow breathing, shortness of breath, production of excessive mucus, coughing, and tightness in the lungs. Asthma attacks can be easily precipitated in classrooms due to the presence of multiple triggers. Common classroom triggers are airborne precipitants (pollen, mold, dust, dust mites, animal dander, cockroach allergen, strong odors, and germs) and stress. In general, most asthma attacks are precipitated by allergens in food, medication, mold, and pollen, and by irritants associated with airborne chemicals, perfume, physical exercise, and changes in the weather.

Correct interventions for an asthma attack include using a prescribed inhaler, medical attention, using a peak flow meter, and rest. Incorrect interventions include sipping milk or orange juice, slapping the person on the back, and placing something in the student's mouth to prevent tongue swallowing.

The researchers found that selecting correct interventions was associated with knowing that airborne particles can trigger asthma attacks. Such knowledge can come about through education and training. As you might expect, Madey and Musumeci found that as asthma-related education and training increased, so did teachers' confidence in handling asthma emergencies within the classroom and preparedness for handling an attack. Unfortunately only 10 percent of the teachers reported that their faculty had received such training. Although some had managed to obtain their own asthma education elsewhere, an alarming 66 percent of the survey participants reported having no specific plan for responding to asthma emergencies within their classrooms.

Another school-related challenge with regard to asthma has to do with drug abuse policies. Among the survey respondents, 31 percent said their school's drug abuse policy prohibited students from carrying their own asthma medication (38 percent of the teachers did not know what their school's policy was). Other research has shown that restrictive drug abuse policies cause students to wait from 5 minutes to over an hour before receiving medication. Such delays can lead to severe attacks and can necessitate treatment at a hospital emergency room. (Each year in the United States about 200 young persons die from asthma attacks.)

Teachers recognized their need for asthma-related training. Among the survey participants, 93 percent of them said they wanted to attend an inservice workshop on asthma management. Do you feel prepared for asthma emergencies in your classroom? Are your colleagues prepared? It might be easier to deal with such questions now, rather than when trying to cope with an asthma emergency.


Which is better, autonomy or relatedness

Balance may be best for mental health

Shippensburg University psychology professor Toru Sato has continued his investigation of autonomy and relatedness and their relationship to mental health. He contends that both are good, but that, if carried to an extreme, either can be detrimental. His findings are contained in an article entitled "Autonomy and Relatedness in Psychopathology and Treatment: A Cross-Cultural Formulation" published this year in Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs.

Autonomy involves a sense of competence and achievement, with the focus on control of both the environment and one's self. Relatedness involves being in harmony with others and having a sense of affiliation. Dr. Sato contends that for optimal functioning, both autonomy and relatedness must contribute to one's sense of well-being.

Research has found that autonomy can be associated with reduced depression, anxiety, and health complaints, along with increased self-esteem. In a similar fashion, relatedness can be associated with lower pathology, including depression. There also can be positive interactions between the two factors, with quality relationships facilitating autonomy, and a sense of autonomy encouraging healthy relationships.

Unfortunately there appears to be a dark side to these dimensions. An extreme form of relatedness is termed "sociotropy." Sociotropic persons focus almost exclusively on interpersonal relationships as the source of their self-worth. They tend to be dependent on others and worried about the possibility of encountering disapproval. Consequently they are easily abused and exploited. At the other extreme, there are individuals who are so high in autonomy that they prefer solitude. Such persons may be domineering, vindictive, and cold. Either of these extremes can lead to depression. For highly autonomous individuals, depression can arise out personal failures or the inability to exert control. With sociotropic persons, depression tends to arise out of disappointments in interpersonal relationships.

Dr. Sato notes that there are cultural differences with regard to autonomy and relatedness. Western societies tend to emphasize autonomy, whereas collectivistic societies emphasize relatedness. Consequently optimal functioning in collectivistic cultures requires high relatedness and moderate autonomy, while high autonomy and moderate relatedness are the norm for healthy functioning in Western societies.


Do adolescents' perceptions of parenting matter?

Perceptions of parental efforts can be important

How are adolescents' perceptions of two parenting dimensions relevant to what happens in the lives of those young persons? That question was addressed by Northern Illinois University psychology professor Nina Mounts in her article "Young Adolescents' Perceptions of Parental Management of Peer Relationships" that appeared in the first issue of this year's Journal of Early Adolescence. The two dimensions she investigated were perceptions of parental monitoring and perceptions of parental prohibition.

Parental monitoring involves consistently knowing where adolescents are and what they are doing. Past research has demonstrated that low levels of parental monitoring are associated with high levels of delinquent behavior. For example, Laurence Steinberg studied families in which parents worked outside the home. Adolescents whose parents monitored them via phone calls were less influenced by antisocial peer pressure than were teenagers who were allowed unmonitored time at a friend's house or in a location that had no adult supervision.

Many researchers have found that susceptibility to peer influence is associated with substance use, sexual activity, and delinquent behavior. Consequently moderating that influence has the potential to encourage mature decision making on the part of adolescents. Parental monitoring apparently is one protective factor. Another possible approach is parental prohibition -- a topic that has been the focus of some research and a lot of theorizing. Many authors have attributed to adolescents the belief that as they grow older, their friendships and behavior should be less the concern of their parents and more related to their own independent choices. If parents are perceived to be extremely strict, resulting resentment by adolescents might motivate them to disobey parental directives. In fact, Andrew Fuligni and Jacquelynne Eccles found that adolescents who perceived their parents to be very restrictive were more influenced by peers than were adolescents who did not perceive their parents to be restrictive.

In the two studies reported in her article, Dr. Mounts surveyed a total of 273 ninth-graders. Her questionnaire measured perceptions of parental monitoring by asking students to use a three-point scale (1 = don't really know, 3 = know a lot) to respond to questions such as "How much do your parents really know where you are at night?" "How much do your parents really know what you do with your free time?" and "How much do your parents really know how you spend your money?" The questionnaire measured perceptions of parental prohibiting by having students use a four-point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 4 = strongly agree) to respond to the following questions: "My parents let me know who they want to be my friends," "My parents tell me if they don't like my friends," "My parents tell me if they don't want me to hang around with certain kids," "My parents tell me if they don't approve of the things my friends do," "My parents want me to be friends with kids who are good students," and "My parents think that if my friends are doing bad things, I must be doing them too."

The survey measured drug use by having students employ a four-point scale (1 = never, 4 = often) to report use of marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs in response to questions such as, "How often in the last three months have you smoked marijuana?"

Students reported on delinquent behavior by responding to questions that began with "How often in the last three months have you...." and asked about activities such as using a phony ID, stealing something, and getting into a physical fight. Grade point average was a self-reported measure.

Students described their educational plans by answering the question "How far do you expect to go in school?" with one of six choices: 1 = drop out of school as soon as possible, 2 = finish high school, 3 = get some vocational or college training, 4 = finish a two-year community college degree, 5 = finish a four-year college degree, and 6 = finish a graduate or professional degree.

Based on previous research related to parental monitoring, Dr. Mounts expected to find a linear relationship between perceived monitoring and reported adaptive behavior -- in other words, she expected that higher levels of perceived parental monitoring would be associated higher levels of reported adaptive behavior and lower levels of perceived parental monitoring would be associated lower levels of reported adaptive behavior. That is what she found for both adolescents and their friends with regard to drug use, delinquent activity, grade point average, and educational plans.

Unlike her expectations for the parental monitoring dimension, Dr. Mounts predicted a curvilinear relationship between perceived parental prohibition and reported adaptive behavior. She expected that low and high levels of perceived parental prohibition would be associated with lower levels of reported adaptive behavior and that moderate levels of perceived parental prohibition would be related to higher levels of reported adaptive behavior. Her findings indicated that was true for both drug use and delinquent activity by the reporting adolescents and for drug use by their friends.

Dr. Mounts' research could serve as an interesting springboard for class discussion or for further research on the topic that your students might do.



Editor: Kenneth France, Ph.D.