Becker, M. (1978) – The Health Belief Model

Becker, M. (1978) ‘Compliance with a medical regimen for asthma’, Public Health Reports 93, 268–77 


This is the first study we will be looking at from the ‘Theories of Health Belief’ section of ‘Healthy Living’, as part of your OCR A2 Health and Clinical Psychology course. It is further categorised into ‘The Health Belief Model


A study in 1954 which investigated why people would or would not go to the Doctor’s for a Tuberculosis screening, suggested that the main reason for attending or not attending was the level of seriousness that the individual perceived in regard to Tuberculosis’s threat to their health. Following this study, Becker and Rosenstock developed the  Health Belief Model in 1970.

There were two aspects to this perceived threat to their health:

  • Perceived Seriousness
  • Perceived Susceptibility

From this the individuals use a cost benefit analysis to decide if they should attend a screening for Tuberculosis.

Furthermore, demographic varibles may have affected the final decision of the person. These can include factors such as: age, gender, income, educational level, family and ethnicity. Moreover, external and internal cues may remind those people of the illness, which could also have affected their decision to be screened.


To use the health belief model to explain mother’s adherence for their asthmatic children.

Method and Design

Correlation between beliefs reported during interviews and the compliance with self-reported administration of asthma medication.


111 Mothers responsible for administering asthma medication to their children.


Each mother was interviewed for around 45 minutes. During the interview they were asked questions regarding their perception of their child’s susceptibility to illness and asthma, how serious asthma is, how much their child’s asthma interferes with his or her education, caused embarrassment and interferes with the mother’s activities.   They were also questioned about their faith in doctors and the effectiveness of the medication.


A positive correlation between a mothers belief about her child’s susceptibility to asthma attacks and compliance to medication regimes was found.

There was also a positive correlation found between the mother’s perception of the child having a serious asthma condition and her administering the medication as prescribed.

Mothers who reported that their child’s asthma interfered with the mother’s activities also complied with the medication.

A negative correlation was found between the costs of medication and treatment and compliance. This does not necessarily only refer to economic costs, but it can also refer to the costs in day to day life.

Demographic variables of marital status and educational level correlated with compliance as follows: married mothers were more likely to comply; the greater the mother’s education the more likely they were to comply.


The health belief model is a useful model to predict and explain different levels of compliance with medical regimes.

Becker (1978) Evaluation

– Cause and effect – as the study was a correlation we cannot ascertain cause and effect, we can only see a relationship between the variables.

– Gynocentrism and ethnocentrism – the study only used a sample of mothers, therefore we cannot generalise the results to wider populations.

– Demand characteristics and social desirability – as Becker used interviews we can argue that there may have been some demand characteristics and socially desirable answers given.




Becker, M. (1978) ‘Compliance with a medical regimen for asthma’, Public Health Reports 93, 268–77 


Further Reading

OCR A2 Psychology Student Unit Guide New Edition: Unit G543 Health and Clinical Psychology (Student Unit Guides)

Article Name
Becker, M. (1978) -The Health Belief Model
Revise 'Theories of Health Belief' section of 'Healthy Living', as part of your OCR A2 Health and Clinical Psychology course. Revision 'The Health Belief Model'