Chaney et al

Chaney et al

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Key terms

Compliance= The extent to which a person follows the instructions of another (Also known as adherence)

Operant conditioning= The idea that we learn behaviours through the consequences of actions

Positive reinforcement= Occurs when a behaviour is followed by a favourable stimulus that increases the frequency of that behaviour

Behaviour modification= Positive reinforcement that strengthens a behaviour so that it's more likely to be repeated

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  • In terms of health, compliance is the extent to which a patient follows the prescribed medical regime
  • Low rates of adherence can lead to increased health risks and more emerency hospital admissions- Asthmatics are prone to this problem
  • Smith et al- Showed rates of compliance in young children varies from 30-70%
  • Celano et al- Showed that children find it difficult to master the deep breathing technique needed to take their medication through an inhaler
  • Chapman et al- Identified reasons for non-compliance such as fear, boredom, ignorance, forgetfulness and apathy
  • Chaney's study is based on operant conditioning and that children's sensitivity to positive reinforcement could be used to design a new inhaler device
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To test whether the use of positive reinforcement via the funhaler could improve medical compliance in young asthmatics compared to the use of the conventional inhaler

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  • Field experiment
  • Repeated measures design

Independant variable

  • The device used to administer the asthma drugs

Dependant variable

  • How well the participants complied with their prescribed medical regime- a Measured by parental responses to a self report questionnaire


  • 32 children- 22 males and 10 females
  • Age range from 1.5-6 years
  • Mean age of 3.2 years
  • Average duration of asthma of 2.2 years
  • Sampling technique- Opportunity sample from health clinics across Australia
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Method- Procedure

  • Carried out in participant's hones over a 2 week period
  • The parents gave informed consent but they weren't shown the funhaler to try and avoid demand characteristics
  • Parents completed a self report questionnaire and interview- Consisted of closed questions about the parent and child's attitudes towards the medication and their compliance levels
  • A random sample of parents were phoned to assess the use of the funhaler- reliability check

The funhaler is:

  • a Brightly coloured
  • Has spinning discs and it whistles which works best with the deep breathing technique needed for medication to be effective- This is a form of operant conditioning known as self-reinforcement (rewards children fit using the deep breathing technique)
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  • The use of the funhaler showed improved parental and child compliance
  • The funhaler has increased daily use- 81% for funhaler and 59% standard inhaler
  • Pleasure of use- 68% funhaler and 10% standard inhaler
  • Effective use of inhaler- 80% funhaler and 50% standard inhaler
  • Many problems with the standard inhaler were reduced eg: less fear and unwillingness to breathe deeply
  • Parents happiness with the device- 61% funhaler and 10% standard inhaler
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  • The use of the funhaler could possibly improve clinical outcomes eg: lowering rates of admissions to hospital for asthma attacks
  • Devices that use self-reinforcement strategies can improve the overall health of children
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The research method

  • Field experiment- High in ecolical validity as it was done in participants homes
  • It's scientific because the cause and effect has been established
  • Can't control all extraneous variables
  • Self report- Open to bias eg: social desirability

Ethical considerations

  • Parents gave informed consent
  • They were briefed about the aims of the study
  • All data responses were anonymised to ensure confidentiality
  • The children were protected from harm by ensuring that the funhaler was administered safely
  • Unaware of the long term effects of the funhaler- It was only trialled for 2 weeks
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Evaluation- 2


  • High in ecological validity- The children weren't disturbed from their everyday lives
  • Order effects- The children already had experience of using the standard inhaler
  • Short term trial (2 weeks)- Results don't tell us about the long term success of the funhaler
  • Limited attempt to assess the funhaler- Parents only asked once and the questions were simple


  • The procedure was standardised (All asked same questions)- Easy to replicate
  • Parents attitudes measured using a questionnaire- The questions might have been ambiguous

Sampling bias

  • Fairly representative- Used families from many different socio-economic backgrounds
  • Might also be considered unrepresentative- Might have been more middle class families compared to working class families
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Evaluation- 3


  • Participants were all Australian- Ungeneralisable to other parts of the world due to cultural differences

Practical applications

  • Correct compliance to a medical regime is important
  • Chaney showed that the use of a device can self-reinforce the correct technique and dosage of medication in children
  • The funhaler device and other self-reinforcement devices can be used to improve medical compliance in other age groups
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Chaney et al

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