THIS PAPER reports the results of a study of 350 children and their mothers. The study was undertaken to investigate, in an exploratory fashion, the development of health attitudes and behavior. Perhaps the classic example of the importance of social learning in respect to health is Zborowski's study of reactions to pain by members of various ethnic groups in a New York city hospital. He found that Jewish and Italian patients as compared with Irish and "Old Americans" readily expressed complaints about pain; and in explaining these expression patterns, Zborowski reported that the patients related how their mothers showed overprotective and overconcerned attitudes toward the child's health and participation in sports, and how they constantly warned the child of the advisability of avoiding colds, injuries, fights, and other threatening situations.
Most of the studies in the area of health attitudes (like Zborowski's) are primarily concerned with differences among various cultural groups, ethnic categories, and social classes. There are relatively few studies available dealing with social psychological factors affecting children's patterns of health behavior. The study reported here was designed with a somewhat different perspective than earlier studies; our primary concern was to ascertain to what extent we could account for varied patterns of health and illness behavior among a relatively homogeneous population.
The Community Studied
Data were obtained from 350 mother-child pairs living in Madison, Wisconsin. Madison, the state capital, is a community of approximately 140,000 persons. Most persons in the community live in single dwellings and work at white-collar occupations. Medical services are extremely varied, and the community is far above average in the number of available physicians and hospital beds per unit population.
Sample and Procedures