Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Learning Sciences and Human Development

Committee Chair

Suzanne C. Hartman

Committee Co-Chair

Christina Duncan

Committee Member

Amy Kennedy Root

Committee Member

Jessica Troilo


The transition into a medical setting can be difficult for children under the age of 18. Previous research has identified a child's capacity to construct accurate representations of illness, in addition to the construction and application of adaptive strategies to modify emotional arousal, as significant predictors of successful adjustment to a medical environment. Preexisting research has neglected to investigate the constructs of illness conceptualization and regulatory systems of emotions. Using a sample of 26 pediatric patients and 26 adult informants, the current study explored the complex relationship between emotional regulation and the conceptualization of illness among children, from the ages of three to five, in the management of a hospital setting. Measures of inhibition, attentional shift and inhibitory self-control were significantly and negatively related to general illness conceptualization. In addition, the study investigated the implications of increased exposure to hospitalization on pediatric patients' development of health-related knowledge and strategies to regulate emotional arousal in early childhood. Contrary to prediction, children characterized as experiencing frequent admittances to a medical setting attained significantly higher means scores, reflecting poor aptitude, on measures of attentional shift, emotional control, and flexibility. The present investigation validates the necessity of respective therapeutic models to appropriately intervene for vulnerable, medically fragile populations.