A naturalistic investigation of the behavioral correlates of Cystic Fibrosis



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A naturalistic observational study of preschool children with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) was undertaken to explore the effects of the illness on children's daily behavior and Intellectual functioning, and to assess the functional relationship between home treatment and health status. A 'participant observer' method of data collection was used in an individually matched control group design. The mothers of 11 children with CF and mothers of 10 youngsters without CF became collaborators in the investigation. Mothers observed and recorded the behavior of their children from 25 to 30 days over a time span of three months. Recordings were made on an hourly basis using a check list which contained S3 predetermined variables. A total of 9,333 hours of observations were collected and analyzed. Behavioral Comparison. Contrary to expectations, the behavioral topography of youngsters with CF as a group was not substantially different from that of the matched children without CF. The behavioral profiles and intellectual functioning of the two groups of children were closely parallel and only a few significant differences between them were found, although a consistent trend of nonsignificant differences emerged. Considering the seriousness of the illness, and the constant threat CF poses to a child's life, the presence of few significant differences in their daily habits as compared to children without CF is indeed remarkable. While the type and range of activities and settings become restricted when the health condition of a child with CF is poor, the social interaction patterns and the physical activity level are not consistently affected. It was concluded that CF does not significantly disrupt the child's behavior stream and intellectual development. Medical Treatment. Amount and quality of treatment delivered in the home was lower than expected in the majority of cases. The relationship between the type, duration, and frequency of treatment and the child's health status was strong. Correlational Analysis. When all the children were taken together in a developmental perspective, a consistent pattern of relationship emerged between behavioral measures and age, sleeping patterns, and physical activity levels. For example, increased independence from direct parental supervision, and greater interaction with peers in settings other than the home, emerged as important developmental trends in the preschool years. Also, sleeping patterns were consistently associated with characteristic styles of functioning during waking time, and physical activity levels were associated with distinct interaction patterns and activity rates. Methodology. The participant observer method of data collection was established as an alternative means of investigating children's behavior in their natural habitats on a longitudinal basis. With minimal training, mothers prove to be reliable observers, offering the opportunity for extensive observations—especially in the developmental area—with minimum intrusion.



Psychological aspects, Cystic fibrosis