Positive Psychology Themes in Interviews of Children with Atopic Dermatitis: Qualitative Study

Terry M. Lou, Kenneth L. Zhang, Noël C. Slesinger, Michelle Taddeo, Eloisa Serrano, Wendy Smith Begolka, Korey Capozza, Amy S. Paller, James W. Griffith, Anna B. Fishbein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Atopic dermatitis is a pruritic chronic condition associated with significant sleep disturbance, inattention, and sometimes behavioral problems. Enhancing resiliency in children with atopic dermatitis may promote coping strategies to improve quality of life. Positive psychology is one strategy that can be used to strengthen resiliency. Objective: Our objective was to identify positive psychology concepts mentioned by children with atopic dermatitis and their parent to inform strategies to strengthen resiliency in children with atopic dermatitis. Methods: A total of 20 patient-parent dyads were interviewed to share their experience with atopic dermatitis to help develop a novel psychologic intervention for atopic dermatitis. Patients were 8 to 17 years old and diagnosed with atopic dermatitis. Trained coders analyzed transcripts using a coding dictionary developed based on Seligman’s PERMA (positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment) model of positive psychology. The frequency of unprompted mentions of PERMA themes and relevant quotations was captured. Transcripts were also separately coded for resiliency, which is the ultimate goal of PERMA. Results: Positive psychology concepts were mentioned by 100% (20/20) of children and 95% (19/20) of parents. Engagement and relationships, both negative and positive aspects, were the most common unprompted PERMA themes mentioned by children (14/20, 70%) and parents (13/20, 65%). Emotion elicited the most negative comments from children (19/20, 95%) and parents (17/20, 85%). When analyzed for resiliency, 8 participants were identified with at least one resiliency code. On average, participants with a resiliency code mentioned PERMA concepts 9.1 (SD 4.7) times compared to those who mentioned none (mean 5.9, SD 4.6) (P=.14). When participants were stratified by disease severity, on average, more positive psychology concepts were mentioned by patients with mild atopic dermatitis (mean 13, SD 3.0) than those with moderate symptoms (mean 6.2, SD 4.9) or severe symptoms (mean 6.1, SD 4.0) (P=.03). Conclusions: Among PERMA themes, engagement and relationships are the two most commonly mentioned categories for children with atopic dermatitis. Strategies targeting PERMA such as affirmations and positive reframing may improve psychosocial well-being and resiliency in pediatric atopic dermatitis. Future directions will look at incorporating “positive medicine” into atopic dermatitis treatment to not only relieve symptoms but also strengthen positive aspects of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere38725
JournalJMIR Pediatrics and Parenting
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • accomplishment
  • atopic dermatitis
  • children
  • dermatology
  • engagement
  • meaning
  • pediatric
  • positive emotion
  • positive psychology
  • relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Health Informatics


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