Conceptions of illness by children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: A cognitive developmental approach

Sharon L. Berry*, Jennifer R. Hayford, Caroline K. Ross, Lauren M. Pachman, John V. Lavigne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Investigated the conceptions of illness and accuracy of understanding about their disease for children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). 54 children between the ages of 6 and 17 were interviewed individually about various aspects of JRA, with results suggesting that accuracy and illness conceptions could be reliably measured. As predicted, children's understanding about their disease followed a developmental progression, with older children demonstrating a more sophisticated understanding of JRA than younger children (significant differences between age groups on 3 of the 5 questions). Multiple regression analysis indicated that conceptual level (p < .001) was a better predictor of the child's accuracy of knowledge than was age (ns). Despite the developmental progression, there were a significant number of children functioning below the level expected for their age. In fact, the majority (75%) of children exhibited an understanding of JRA at the concrete operational level of cognitive development. The within-subject variability and striking misconceptions argue for ongoing evaluation of each child's understanding as a way to improve educational efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-97
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of pediatric psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1993


  • Cognitive development
  • Conceptions of illness
  • JRA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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