Intuitive theories of human immunodeficiency virus transmission: Their development and implications

Carol K. Sigelman, Antonio L. Estrada, Eileen B. Derenowski, Teresa E. Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Explored the use of cluster analysis to characterize the development of intuitive theories of HIV transmission and examined relationships between children's theories and their attitudes regarding AIDS. In Study 1, analyses of interviews with 188 children and adolescents led to the identification of three relatively immature theories (undifferentiated thinking in which anything can cause AIDS, uncertainty about its causes, and a hybrid theory emphasizing germs as well as any form of drug use) and two relatively mature ones (both emphasizing true AIDS risk factors but differing in their understanding of blood exchange as a cause). Unwillingness to interact with persons with AIDS and worry about AIDS decreased with age and the former in particular was most closely associated with the belief that AIDS is spread through casual contact. In Study 2, analyses of data from a largely Mexican American sample of 306 third, fifth, and seventh graders yielded largely similar findings despite use of different risk factor subscales. Overall, the intuitive theories approach and the use of cluster analysis in its service appear to be promising ways of assessing children's knowledge of disease so that appropriate interventions for different subgroups of children can be designed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-572
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of pediatric psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1996


  • AIDS
  • attitudes
  • beliefs
  • children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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