Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

Summer 9-1-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Brian D Carpenter


Currently, there are 5.2 million Americans over the age of 65 with Alzheimer's disease (AD; Alzheimer's Association, 2013). Given the growing proportion of the population that is over age 65, the number of people who will develop Alzheimer's disease is expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years. One consequence of that trend is that more young children (i.e., ages 4-12) are likely to encounter AD through a grandparent or great-grandparent with the disease. While it is unknown exactly how many young children have grandparents or great-grandparents with the disease, 30 percent of dementia caregivers also have children under 18 years old (National Alliance for Caregiving & AARP, 2009), suggesting that dementia does, in fact, have an impact on many children.

Alzheimer's disease can affect young children in many ways: children may experience confusion about their relative's condition or their changed relationship with their relative, they may feel isolated or neglected due to decreased attention from parents who are in AD caregiving roles, and they may be asked to take on additional household chores or caregiving responsibilities themselves. Yet, there are few opportunities for young children to receive information about AD, despite the fact that this information may influence their attitudes and responses to AD and people with AD. Among the different ways children can learn about AD, storybooks are one way of presenting children with information about AD, with potential benefits for children and for parents.

The current study utilized a within-subjects, repeated-measures design with two interventions, 1) reading a storybook about AD to young children, and 2) having a subsequent discussion about the book with their children. Outcome measures for children and parents included AD knowledge, attitudes about AD, willingness to interact with people with AD, as well as emotional responses to the AD storybook (i.e., positive and negative affect). Parent self-perceived confidence in discussing AD with their children was also assessed. In addition, child and parent satisfaction with the storybook and discussion was evaluated. Fifty-five parent-child dyads participated in this study. There was a significant overall effect of the interventions on both the child and parent dependent variables, particularly after reading the storybook, with AD knowledge increasing, attitudes improving, and willingness to interact with individuals with AD increasing. Meanwhile, the interventions did not appear to have a negative impact on child or parent emotions. The findings from this study suggest that storybooks can, in fact, be useful tools for providing information and influencing attitudes and behaviors in the context of AD for both young children and their parents. Results from this study may provide an initial step toward identifying appropriate interventions to increase AD health literacy in both young children and their parents.


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