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1.  Advanced Paternal Age Is Associated with Impaired Neurocognitive Outcomes during Infancy and Childhood 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(3):e1000040.
Advanced paternal age (APA) is associated with an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, as well as with dyslexia and reduced intelligence. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between paternal age and performance on neurocognitive measures during infancy and childhood.
Methods and Findings
A sample of singleton children (n = 33,437) was drawn from the US Collaborative Perinatal Project. The outcome measures were assessed at 8 mo, 4 y, and 7 y (Bayley scales, Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale, Graham-Ernhart Block Sort Test, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Wide Range Achievement Test). The main analyses examined the relationship between neurocognitive measures and paternal or maternal age when adjusted for potential confounding factors. Advanced paternal age showed significant associations with poorer scores on all of the neurocognitive measures apart from the Bayley Motor score. The findings were broadly consistent in direction and effect size at all three ages. In contrast, advanced maternal age was generally associated with better scores on these same measures.
The offspring of older fathers show subtle impairments on tests of neurocognitive ability during infancy and childhood. In light of secular trends related to delayed fatherhood, the clinical implications and the mechanisms underlying these findings warrant closer scrutiny.
Using a sample of children from the US Collaborative Perinatal Project, John McGrath and colleagues show that the offspring of older fathers exhibit subtle impairments on tests of neurocognitive ability during infancy and childhood.
Editors' Summary
Over the last few decades, changes in society in the developed world have made it increasingly common for couples to wait until their late thirties to have children. In 1993, 25% of live births within marriage in England and Wales were to fathers aged 35–54 years, but by 2003 it was 40%. It is well known that women's fertility declines with age and that older mothers are more likely to have children with disabilities such as Down's syndrome. In contrast, many men can father children throughout their lives, and little attention has been paid to the effects of older fatherhood.
More recent evidence shows that a man's age does affect both fertility and the child's health. “Advanced paternal age” has been linked to miscarriages, birth deformities, cancer, and specific behavioral problems such as autism or schizophrenia.
Rates of autism have increased in recent decades, but the cause is unknown. Studies of twins and families have suggested there may be a complex genetic basis, and it is suspected that damage to sperm, which can accumulate over a man's lifetime, may be responsible. A woman's eggs are formed largely while she is herself in the womb, but sperm-making cells divide throughout a man's lifetime, increasing the chance of mutations in sperm.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is good evidence linking specific disorders with older fathers, but the link between a father's age and a child's more general intelligence is not as clear. A recent study suggested a link between reduced intelligence and both very young and older fathers. The authors wanted to use this large dataset to test the idea that older fathers have children who do worse on tests of intelligence. They also wanted to re-examine others' findings using this same dataset that older mothers have more intelligent children.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers gathered no new data but reanalyzed data on children from the US Collaborative Perinatal Project (CPP), which had used a variety of tests given to children at ages 8 months, 4 years, and 7 years, to measure cognitive ability—the ability to think and reason, including concentration, memory, learning, understanding, speaking, and reading. Some tests included assessments of “motor skills”—physical co-ordination.
The CPP dataset holds information on children of 55,908 expectant mothers who attended 12 university-affiliated hospital clinics in the United States from 1959 to 1965. The researchers excluded premature babies and multiple births and chose one pregnancy at random for each eligible woman, to keep their analysis simpler. This approach reduced the number of children in their analysis to 33,437.
The researchers analyzed the data using two models. In one, they took into account physical factors such as the parents' ages. In the other, they also took into account social factors such as the parents' level of education and income, which are linked to intelligence. In addition, the authors grouped the children by their mother's age and, within each group, looked for a link between the lowest-scoring children and the age of their father.
The researchers found that children with older fathers had lower scores on all of the measures except one measure of motor skills. In contrast, children with older mothers had higher scores. They found that the older the father, the more likely was this result found.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study is the first to show that children of older fathers perform less well in a range of tests when young, but cannot say whether those children catch up with their peers after the age of 7 years. Results may also be biased because information was more likely to be missing for children whose father's age was not recorded.
Previous researchers had proposed that children of older mothers may perform better in tests because they experience a more nurturing home environment. If this is the case, children of older fathers do not experience the same benefit.
However, further work needs to be done to confirm these findings. Especially in newer datasets, current trends to delay parenthood mean these findings have implications for individuals, couples, and policymakers. Individuals and couples need to be aware that the ages of both partners can affect their ability to have healthy children, though the risks for individual children are small. Policymakers should consider promoting awareness of the risks of delaying parenthood or introducing policies to encourage childbearing at an optimal age.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Mothers 35+ is a UK Web site with resources and information for older mothers, mothers-to-be, and would-be mothers, including information on the health implications of fathering a child late in life
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine published a Patient Information Booklet on Age and Fertility in 2003, which is available online; it contains a small section called “Fertility in the Aging Male,” but otherwise focuses on women
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia has a short article on the “Paternal age effect” (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
In 2005, the UK Office of National Statistics published a booklet entitled “Perpetual postponers? Women's, men's and couple's fertility intentions and subsequent fertility behaviour” looking at data from the British Household Panel Survey
PMCID: PMC2653549  PMID: 19278291
2.  Maternal mental health predicts risk of developmental problems at 3 years of age: follow up of a community based trial 
Undetected and untreated developmental problems can have a significant economic and social impact on society. Intervention to ameliorate potential developmental problems requires early identification of children at risk of future learning and behaviour difficulties. The objective of this study was to estimate the prevalence of risk for developmental problems among preschool children born to medically low risk women and identify factors that influence outcomes.
Mothers who had participated in a prenatal trial were followed up three years post partum to answer a telephone questionnaire. Questions were related to child health and development, child care, medical care, mother's lifestyle, well-being, and parenting style. The main outcome measure was risk for developmental problems using the Parents' Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS).
Of 791 children, 11% were screened by the PEDS to be at high risk for developmental problems at age three. Of these, 43% had previously been referred for assessment. Children most likely to have been referred were those born preterm. Risk factors for delay included: male gender, history of ear infections, a low income environment, and a mother with poor emotional health and a history of abuse. A child with these risk factors was predicted to have a 53% chance of screening at high risk for developmental problems. This predicted probability was reduced to 19% if the child had a mother with good emotional health and no history of abuse.
Over 10% of children were identified as high risk for developmental problems by the screening, and more than half of those had not received a specialist referral. Risk factors for problems included prenatal and perinatal maternal and child factors. Assessment of maternal health and effective screening of child development may increase detection of children at high risk who would benefit from early intervention.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN64070727
PMCID: PMC2396150  PMID: 18460217
3.  Possible risk factors for Down syndrome and sex chromosomal aneuploidy in Mysore, South India 
Indian Journal of Human Genetics  2007;13(3):102-108.
Down syndrome (DS) and sex chromosomal aneuploidy (SA) are common chromosomal anomalies causing congenital malformations and mental retardation in humans. The well-established risk factor, advanced maternal age, was not found in many of the DS and SA cases in India, while the other possible risk factors have not been well studied. In view of this, the present study has been made.
During the last 5 years, 150 clinically suspected DS and 25 SA cases were referred to our laboratory for chromosome investigation from major hospitals of Mysore city. Chromosome preparations were made from these patients after informed consent was obtained. Well-spread G-banded metaphase plates were analyzed by automated LEICA KARYO software. Two hundred and 100 randomly selected families belonging to different religions were used as controls for the DS and SA cases, respectively. Statistical analysis was carried out using logistic regression
Out of the 150 cases of DS, 122 had free trisomy 21, two were mosaic trisomy 21, and one had translocation. Logistic regression of case-control study of DS children revealed that the odds ratio of uncle-niece marriages, or second cousin marriages, or parents lived in rural region, or exposure of the parents to chemicals, or parents education status, or habits (tobacco/ alcohol used) of father, or mother not undergone prenatal scanning, or mothers with previous abortions were significant when all the variables of that category were used one at a time. Exposure of the parents to chemicals, parents’ educational status, habits (tobacco/alcohol use) of the father, mother not undergone prenatal scanning, and history of previous abortions were significant when all the variables of that category were used one at a time. Similarly, except for consanguinity, history of previous abortions, and mother not undergone prenatal scanning, all other factors showed significant odds ratios in SA cases.
Besides the known risk factors, consanguinity, region (rural/urban) of residence of parents, exposure of parents to chemicals, educational status of parents, habits of father, prenatal scanning, and reproductive performance of mother are possible risk factors for chromosomal aneuploidy.
PMCID: PMC3168135  PMID: 21957357
Down syndrome; possible risk factors; sex chromosomal aneuploidy; South India
4.  Public views of acceptability of perinatal mental health screening and treatment preference: a population based survey 
At a prevalence rate of 13-25%, mental health problems are among the most common morbidities of the prenatal and postnatal periods. They have been associated with increased risk of preterm birth and low birthweight, child developmental delay, and poor child mental health. However, very few pregnant and postpartum women proactively seek help or engage in treatment and less than 15% receive needed mental healthcare. While system-related barriers limit accessibility and availability of mental health services, personal barriers, such as views of mental health and its treatment, are also cited as significant deterrents of obtaining mental healthcare. The purposes of this population-based study were to identify the public’s views regarding mental health screening and treatment in pregnant and postpartum women, and to determine factors associated with those views.
A computer-assisted telephone survey was conducted by the Population Research Laboratory with a random sample of adults in Alberta, Canada. Questions were drawn from the Perinatal Depression Monitor, an Australian population-based survey on perinatal mental health; additional questions were developed and tested to reflect the Canadian context. Interviews were conducted in English and were less than 30 minutes in duration. Descriptive and multivariable regression analyses were conducted.
Among the 1207 respondents, 74.8% had post-secondary education, 16.3% were 18-34 years old, and two-thirds (66.1%) did not have children <18 years living at home. The majority of respondents strongly agreed/agreed that all women should be screened in the prenatal (63.0%) and postpartum periods (72.7%). Respondents reported that when seeking help and support their first choice would be a family doctor. Preferred treatments were talking to a doctor or midwife and counseling. Knowledge of perinatal mental health was the main factor associated with different treatment preferences.
The high acceptability of universal perinatal mental health screening among the public provides a strong message regarding the public value for routine screening during pregnancy and postpartum periods. Perinatal mental health literacy is the most prominent determinant of screening and treatment acceptability and preference. Efforts to enhance population literacy as part of a multifaceted perinatal mental health strategy may optimize pregnant and postpartum women’s mental health.
PMCID: PMC3925362  PMID: 24521267
Perinatal mental health; Screening; Acceptability; Treatment; Postpartum; Antenatal; Depression; Anxiety; Stress; Mental health literacy
5.  Chronic physical health conditions among children of different racial/ethnic backgrounds 
Public health  2013;127(6):546-553.
It is estimated that 20% of children in the USA are affected by at least one chronic disease. Although the burden of chronic conditions is greater for minority populations of children, research that has explored the prevalence and risk factors of chronic disease across different racial/ethnic groups is scarce. The aim of this study was to examine racial/ethnic disparities in the prevalence rates of common physical, chronic diseases in White, Black and Hispanic children; and assess the effect of several factors on the risk of having a chronic disease.
Using the 2007 National Survey of Childrens Health, prevalence estimates were calculated for asthma, hearing impairment, visual impairment, joint/bone/muscle problems, brain injury and other illnesses for each racial/ethnic group. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the effects of several risk factors on the risk of each of these health conditions.
The findings show that the prevalence for all health conditions was significantly higher (25.3%) among Black children than White (19.8%) and Hispanic (18.6%) children. Furthermore, 19.5% of Black children have had or currently have asthma compared with 12.2% of White and Hispanic children. More Black and Hispanic children were covered by public health insurance, while 19% of Hispanic children were currently uninsured. White children whose mothers had a health problem were associated with asthma, hearing impairment, visual impairment and joint/bone/muscle problems, while Black children were more likely to report asthma and Hispanics reported visual impairment and joint/ bone muscle problems. Hispanic children who were living in poverty or were uninsured were at lower risk for any chronic disease. Regardless of race/ethnicity, children living in a single-parent household were more likely to be associated with any health condition.\
This study provides evidence that racial/ethnic disparities in chronic physical conditions and health care among US children are extensive. It underscores that uninsured children who do not have access to the healthcare system are not being screened for chronic diseases, or are not obtaining medical care for such health problems. Healthcare providers should educate families about prevention measures and community services that might be able to assist them in improving the health of their children.
PMCID: PMC4086459  PMID: 23583033
Chronic; Physical health illnesses; Children; Race and ethnicity; Asthma; Hearing and vision; Health disparities
6.  Autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder among individuals with a family history of alcohol use disorders 
eLife  2014;3:e02917.
Recent studies suggest de novo mutations may involve the pathogenesis of autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Based on the evidence that excessive alcohol consumption may be associated with an increased rate of de novo mutations in germ cells (sperms or eggs), we examine here whether the risks of autism and ADHD are increased among individuals with a family history of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). The standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) of autism and ADHD among individuals with a biological parental history of AUDs were 1.39 (95% CI 1.34–1.44) and 2.19 (95% CI 2.15–2.23), respectively, compared to individuals without an affected parent. Among offspring whose parents were diagnosed with AUDs before their birth, the corresponding risks were 1.46 (95% CI 1.36–1.58) and 2.70 (95% CI 2.59–2.81), respectively. Our study calls for extra surveillance for children with a family history of AUDs, and further studies examining the underlying mechanisms are needed.
eLife digest
Children learn to talk, manage their emotions, and control their behavior in a period when the brain is developing rapidly. The first signs of several developmental disorders, such as autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may also emerge during this period. Children with autism may have difficulties with social interactions and communication, while those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may struggle to pay attention to a task and may be more active than other children.
Autism or ADHD are diagnosed based on the child's behavior because the underlying causes of the disorders are not well understood. Both genes and the environment have been linked to the conditions; and it was recently suggested that certain common genetic mutations are more common in children with ADHD or autism. However, as some of the mutations linked to autism are not found in the genes of the affected children's parents, it is likely that they occurred in either of the sperm or the egg cell from the parents.
Exposure to harmful substances in the environment can cause mutations in egg or sperm cells, or alter the expression of genes without changing the gene sequence. Excessive alcohol consumption is one environmental factor that can mutate genes or alter gene expression. Here, Sundquist et al. have looked to see if there is a relationship between a child having a parent with an alcohol use problem and the child's risk of developing autism or ADHD.
Examining national medical registries identified 24,157 people with autism and 49,348 with ADHD in Sweden between 1987 and 2010. Sundquist et al. discovered that autism and ADHD were more common in individuals who had a parent with a history of an alcohol use disorder than in those whose parents had no history of an alcohol use disorder. There was also an even greater risk of either condition if the parent had been diagnosed with an alcohol use problem before the birth of the child.
Adopted children who had a biological parent with an alcohol use disorder were at a greater risk of autism and ADHD than those whose adoptive parent had an alcohol use disorder. However, as very few adopted parents were diagnosed with an alcohol use problem, it is important to be cautious about drawing firm conclusions from this observation.
Sundquist et al. estimate that around 4% of autism cases and 11% of ADHD cases could be avoided if parents abstained from heavy alcohol consumption. Though these findings are consistent with parents with an alcohol use disorder being more likely to pass on mutations to their children, there are also other possible explanations. As such, further research examining the underlying cause is still needed.
PMCID: PMC4135348  PMID: 25139954
autism; ADHD; alcohol use disorders; human
7.  Barriers to Provider-Initiated Testing and Counselling for Children in a High HIV Prevalence Setting: A Mixed Methods Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(5):e1001649.
Rashida Ferrand and colleagues combine quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate HIV prevalence among older children receiving primary care in Harare, Zimbabwe, and reasons why providers did not pursue testing.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
There is a substantial burden of HIV infection among older children in sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of whom are diagnosed after presentation with advanced disease. We investigated the provision and uptake of provider-initiated HIV testing and counselling (PITC) among children in primary health care facilities, and explored health care worker (HCW) perspectives on providing HIV testing to children.
Methods and Findings
Children aged 6 to 15 y attending six primary care clinics in Harare, Zimbabwe, were offered PITC, with guardian consent and child assent. The reasons why testing did not occur in eligible children were recorded, and factors associated with HCWs offering and children/guardians refusing HIV testing were investigated using multivariable logistic regression. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with clinic nurses and counsellors to explore these factors. Among 2,831 eligible children, 2,151 (76%) were offered PITC, of whom 1,534 (54.2%) consented to HIV testing. The main reasons HCWs gave for not offering PITC were the perceived unsuitability of the accompanying guardian to provide consent for HIV testing on behalf of the child and lack of availability of staff or HIV testing kits. Children who were asymptomatic, older, or attending with a male or a younger guardian had significantly lower odds of being offered HIV testing. Male guardians were less likely to consent to their child being tested. 82 (5.3%) children tested HIV-positive, with 95% linking to care. Of the 940 guardians who tested with the child, 186 (19.8%) were HIV-positive.
The HIV prevalence among children tested was high, highlighting the need for PITC. For PITC to be successfully implemented, clear legislation about consent and guardianship needs to be developed, and structural issues addressed. HCWs require training on counselling children and guardians, particularly male guardians, who are less likely to engage with health care services. Increased awareness of the risk of HIV infection in asymptomatic older children is needed.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Over 3 million children globally are estimated to be living with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). While HIV infection is most commonly spread through unprotected sex with an infected person, most HIV infections among children are the result of mother-to-child HIV transmission during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. Mother-to-child transmission can be prevented by administering antiretroviral therapy to mothers with HIV during pregnancy, delivery, and breast feeding, and to their newborn babies. According to a report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS published in 2012, 92% of pregnant women with HIV were living in sub-Saharan Africa and just under 60% were receiving antiretroviral therapy. Consequently, sub-Saharan Africa is the region where most children infected with HIV live.
Why Was This Study Done?
If an opportunity to prevent mother-to-child transmission around the time of birth is missed, diagnosis of HIV infection in a child or adolescent is likely to depend on HIV testing in health care facilities. Health care provider–initiated HIV testing and counselling (PITC) for children is important in areas where HIV infection is common because earlier diagnosis allows children to benefit from care that can prevent the development of advanced HIV disease. Even if a child or adolescent appears to be in good health, access to care and antiretroviral therapy provides a health benefit to the individual over the long term. The administration of HIV testing (and counselling) to children relies not only on health care workers (HCWs) offering HIV testing but also on parents or guardians consenting for a child to be tested. However, more than 30% of children in countries with severe HIV epidemics are AIDS orphans, and economic conditions in these countries cause many adults to migrate for work, leaving children under the care of extended families. This study aimed to investigate the reasons for acceptance and rejection of PITC in primary health care settings in Harare, Zimbabwe. By exploring HCW perspectives on providing HIV testing to children and adolescents, the study also sought to gain insight into factors that could be hindering implementation of testing procedures.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified all children aged 6 to 15 years old at six primary care clinics in Harare, who were offered HIV testing as part of routine care between 22 January and 31 May 2013. Study fieldworkers collected data on numbers of child attendances, numbers offered testing, numbers who underwent HIV testing, and reasons why HIV testing did not occur. During the study 2,831 children attending the health clinics were eligible for PITC, and just over half (1,534, 54.2%) underwent HIV testing. Eighty-two children tested HIV-positive, and nearly all of them received counselling, medication, and follow-up care. HCWs offered the test to around 75% of those eligible. The most frequent explanation given by HCWs for a diagnostic test not being offered was that the child was accompanied by a guardian not appropriate for providing consent (401 occasions, 59%); Other reasons given were a lack of available counsellors or test kits and counsellors refusing to conduct the test. The likelihood of being offered the test was lower for children not exhibiting symptoms (such as persistent skin problems), older children, or those attending with a male or a younger guardian. In addition, over 100 guardians or parents provided consent but left before the child could be tested.
The researchers also conducted semi-structured interviews with 12 clinic nurses and counsellors (two from each clinic) to explore challenges to implementation of PITC. The researchers recorded the factors associated with testing not taking place, either when offered to eligible children or when HCWs declined to offer the test. The interviewees identified the frequent absence or unavailability of parents or legal guardians as an obstacle, and showed uncertainty or misconceptions around whether testing of the guardian was mandatory (versus recommended) and whether specifically a parent (if one was living) must provide consent. The interviews also revealed HCW concerns about the availability of adequate counselling and child services, and fears that a child might experience maltreatment if he or she tested positive. HCWs also noted long waiting times and test kits being out of stock as practical hindrances to testing.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Prevalence of HIV was high among the children tested, validating the need for PITC in sub-Saharan health care settings. Although 76% of eligible attendees were offered testing, the authors note that this is likely higher than in routine settings because the researchers were actively recording reasons for not offering testing and counselling, which may have encouraged heath care staff to offer PITC more often than usual. The researchers outline strategies that may improve PITC rates and testing acceptance for Zimbabwe and other sub-Saharan settings. These strategies include developing clear laws and guidance concerning guardianship and proxy consent when testing older children for HIV, training HCWs around these policies, strengthening legislation to address discrimination, and increasing public awareness about HIV infection in older children.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Davies and Kalk
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS publishes an annual report on the global AIDS epidemic, which provides information on progress towards eliminating new HIV infections
The World Health Organization has more information on mother-to-child transmission of HIV
The World Health Organization's website also has information about treatment for children living with HIV
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS, including stories from young people infected with HIV, are available through Avert, through NAM/aidsmap, and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC4035250  PMID: 24866209
8.  Parents of young people with self-harm or suicidal behaviour who seek help – a psychosocial profile 
Deliberate Self-Harm (DSH) is a common problem among children and adolescents in clinical and community populations, and there is a considerable amount of literature investigating factors associated with DSH risk and the effects of DSH on the child. However, there is a dearth of research examining the impact of DSH on parents, and there are few support programmes targeted at this population. This cross-sectional study examines the profile of a sample of parents of young people with DSH who participated in a support programme (Supporting Parents and Carers of young people with self-harm: the SPACE programme), with the goal of investigating pre-test parental well-being, family communication, parental satisfaction, perceived parental social support, and child strengths and difficulties.
Participants were 130 parents who attended the SPACE programme between 2009 and 2012, and who completed six questionnaires at baseline: the General Health Questionnaire-12, Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, Kansas Parenting Satisfaction Scale, General Functioning Scale of the McMaster Family Assessment Device, Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, and a demographic questionnaire.
The majority of parents met criteria for minor psychological distress (86%) and rated the quantity and severity of their children’s difficulties as being in the abnormally high range (74%) at baseline. A majority of participants (61%) rated their perceived social support as being poor. Lower parental well-being was significantly correlated with poorer family communication, poorer parenting satisfaction, and a greater number of difficulties for the child. Perceived social support was not significantly correlated with parental well-being. Parents whose children were not attending school at baseline had significantly lower well-being scores than those whose children were. Parents whose children had received a formal diagnosis of a mental health disorder also had significantly lower well-being scores than those whose children had not.
Parents of young people with DSH behaviours face considerable emotional and practical challenges; they have low levels of well-being, parenting satisfaction, social support, and experience poor family communication. Given the importance of parental support for young people with DSH behaviours, consideration should be given to the need for individual or group support for such parents.
PMCID: PMC3645953  PMID: 23618077
Deliberate self-harm; Parents; Help-seeking; Adolescents; Suicidal behaviour; Parental well-being; Group support programme
9.  Association of Prenatal and Childhood Blood Lead Concentrations with Criminal Arrests in Early Adulthood 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e101.
Childhood lead exposure is a purported risk factor for antisocial behavior, but prior studies either relied on indirect measures of exposure or did not follow participants into adulthood to examine the relationship between lead exposure and criminal activity in young adults. The objective of this study was to determine if prenatal and childhood blood lead concentrations are associated with arrests for criminal offenses.
Methods and Findings
Pregnant women were recruited from four prenatal clinics in Cincinnati, Ohio if they resided in areas of the city with a high concentration of older, lead-contaminated housing. We studied 250 individuals, 19 to 24 y of age, out of 376 children who were recruited at birth between 1979 and 1984. Prenatal maternal blood lead concentrations were measured during the first or early second trimester of pregnancy. Childhood blood lead concentrations were measured on a quarterly and biannual basis through 6.5 y. Study participants were examined at an inner-city pediatric clinic and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Total arrests and arrests for offenses involving violence were collected from official Hamilton County, Ohio criminal justice records. Main outcomes were the covariate-adjusted rate ratios (RR) for total arrests and arrests for violent crimes associated with each 5 μg/dl (0.24 μmol/l) increase in blood lead concentration. Adjusted total arrest rates were greater for each 5 μg/dl (0.24 μmol/l) increase in blood lead concentration: RR = 1.40 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.07–1.85) for prenatal blood lead, 1.07 (95% CI 0.88–1.29) for average childhood blood lead, and 1.27 (95% CI 1.03–1.57) for 6-year blood lead. Adjusted arrest rates for violent crimes were also greater for each 5 μg/dl increase in blood lead: RR = 1.34 (95% CI 0.88–2.03) for prenatal blood lead, 1.30 (95% CI 1.03–1.64) for average childhood blood lead, and 1.48 (95% CI 1.15–1.89) for 6-year blood lead.
Prenatal and postnatal blood lead concentrations are associated with higher rates of total arrests and/or arrests for offenses involving violence. This is the first prospective study to demonstrate an association between developmental exposure to lead and adult criminal behavior.
Kim Dietrich and colleagues find an association between developmental exposure to lead and adult criminal behavior.
Editors' Summary
Violent crime is an increasing problem in many countries, but why are some people more aggressive than others? Being male has been identified as a risk factor for violent criminal behavior in several studies, as have exposure to tobacco smoke before birth, having antisocial parents, and belonging to a poor family. Another potential risk factor for antisocial behavior as an adult is exposure to lead during childhood, although few studies have looked directly at whether childhood lead exposure is linked with criminal behavior in adulthood. Lead is a toxic metal that damages the nervous system when ingested or inhaled. It is present throughout the environment because of its widespread use in the past in paint, solder for water pipes, and gasoline. In 1978, 13.5 million US children had a blood lead level above 10 μg/dl, the current US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blood lead level of concern (the average US blood lead level is 2 μg/dl). Lead paint and solder were banned in 1978 and 1986, respectively, by the US federal government; leaded gasoline was finally phased out in 1996. By 2002, only 310,000 US children had a blood lead level above 10 μg/dl. However, children exposed to lower levels of lead than this—through ingesting flakes or dust residues of old lead paint, for example—can have poor intellectual development and behavioral problems including aggression.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although some studies have suggested that childhood lead exposure is associated with later criminal behavior, these studies have often relied on indirect measurements of childhood lead exposure such as bone lead levels in young adults or a history of lead poisoning. Other studies that have measured childhood lead exposure directly have not followed their participants into adulthood. In this new study, the researchers investigate the association between actual measurements of prenatal and childhood blood lead concentrations and criminal arrests in early adulthood to get a clearer idea about whether early lead exposure is associated with subsequent violent behavior.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between 1979 and 1984, the researchers recruited pregnant women living in poor areas of Cincinnati, which had a high concentration of older, lead-contaminated housing, into the Cincinnati Lead Study. They measured the women's blood lead concentrations during pregnancy as an indication of their offspring's prenatal lead exposure and the children's blood lead levels regularly until they were six and half years old. They then obtained information from the local criminal justice records on how many times each of the 250 offspring had been arrested between becoming 18 years old and the end of October 2005. The researchers found that increased blood lead levels before birth and during early childhood were associated with higher rates of arrest for any reason and for violent crimes. For example, for every 5 μg/dl increase in blood lead levels at six years of age, the risk of being arrested for a violent crime as a young adult increased by almost 50% (the “relative risk” was 1.48).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide strong evidence that early lead exposure is a risk factor for criminal behavior, including violent crime, in adulthood. One possibility, which the authors were unable to assess in this study, is that lead exposure impairs intelligence, which in turn makes it more likely that a criminal offender will be caught (i.e., arrested). The authors discuss a number of limitations in their study—for example, they probably did not capture all criminal behavior (since most criminal behavior does not lead to arrest). Although both environmental lead levels and crime rates have dropped over the last 30 years in the US, the overall reduction was not uniform—inner-city children remain particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. The findings therefore suggest that a further reduction in childhood lead exposure might be an important and achievable way to reduce violent crime.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A PLoS Medicine Perspective article by David Bellinger further discusses this study and a related paper on childhood lead exposure and brain volume reduction in adulthood
Study researcher Kim Dietrich can be heard talking about “The Lethal Legacy of Lead”, a brief MP3 about lead exposure and violent crime
Toxtown, an interactive site from the US National Library of Medicine, provides information on environmental health concerns including exposure to lead (in English and Spanish)
The US Environmental Protection Agency provides information on lead in paint, dust, and soil and on protecting children from lead poisoning (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides a list of links to information on lead poisoning (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
The UK Health Protection Agency also provides information about lead and its health hazards
PMCID: PMC2689664  PMID: 18507497
10.  Genetic Markers of Adult Obesity Risk Are Associated with Greater Early Infancy Weight Gain and Growth 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(5):e1000284.
Ken Ong and colleagues genotyped children from the ALSPAC birth cohort and showed an association between greater early infancy gains in weight and length and genetic markers for adult obesity risk.
Genome-wide studies have identified several common genetic variants that are robustly associated with adult obesity risk. Exploration of these genotype associations in children may provide insights into the timing of weight changes leading to adult obesity.
Methods and Findings
Children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort were genotyped for ten genetic variants previously associated with adult BMI. Eight variants that showed individual associations with childhood BMI (in/near: FTO, MC4R, TMEM18, GNPDA2, KCTD15, NEGR1, BDNF, and ETV5) were used to derive an “obesity-risk-allele score” comprising the total number of risk alleles (range: 2–15 alleles) in each child with complete genotype data (n = 7,146). Repeated measurements of weight, length/height, and body mass index from birth to age 11 years were expressed as standard deviation scores (SDS). Early infancy was defined as birth to age 6 weeks, and early infancy failure to thrive was defined as weight gain between below the 5th centile, adjusted for birth weight. The obesity-risk-allele score showed little association with birth weight (regression coefficient: 0.01 SDS per allele; 95% CI 0.00–0.02), but had an apparently much larger positive effect on early infancy weight gain (0.119 SDS/allele/year; 0.023–0.216) than on subsequent childhood weight gain (0.004 SDS/allele/year; 0.004–0.005). The obesity-risk-allele score was also positively associated with early infancy length gain (0.158 SDS/allele/year; 0.032–0.284) and with reduced risk of early infancy failure to thrive (odds ratio  = 0.92 per allele; 0.86–0.98; p = 0.009).
The use of robust genetic markers identified greater early infancy gains in weight and length as being on the pathway to adult obesity risk in a contemporary birth cohort.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The proportion of overweight and obese children is increasing across the globe. In the US, the Surgeon General estimates that, compared with 1980, twice as many children and three times the number of adolescents are now overweight. Worldwide, 22 million children under five years old are considered by the World Health Organization to be overweight.
Being overweight or obese in childhood is associated with poor physical and mental health. In addition, childhood obesity is considered a major risk factor for adult obesity, which is itself a major risk factor for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and other chronic conditions.
The most commonly used measure of whether an adult is a healthy weight is body mass index (BMI), defined as weight in kilograms/(height in metres)2. However, adult categories of obese (>30) and overweight (>25) BMI are not directly applicable to children, whose BMI naturally varies as they grow. BMI can be used to screen children for being overweight and or obese but a diagnosis requires further information.
Why Was This Study Done?
As the numbers of obese and overweight children increase, a corresponding rise in future numbers of overweight and obese adults is also expected. This in turn is expected to lead to an increasing incidence of poor health. As a result, there is great interest among health professionals in possible pathways between childhood and adult obesity. It has been proposed that certain periods in childhood may be critical for the development of obesity.
In the last few years, ten genetic variants have been found to be more common in overweight or obese adults. Eight of these have also been linked to childhood BMI and/or obesity. The authors wanted to identify the timing of childhood weight changes that may be associated with adult obesity. Knowledge of obesity risk genetic variants gave them an opportunity to do so now, without following a set of children to adulthood.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors analysed data gathered from a subset of 7,146 singleton white European children enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) study, which is investigating associations between genetics, lifestyle, and health outcomes for a group of children in Bristol whose due date of birth fell between April 1991 and December 1992. They used knowledge of the children's genetic makeup to find associations between an obesity risk allele score—a measure of how many of the obesity risk genetic variants a child possessed—and the children's weight, height, BMI, levels of body fat (at nine years old), and rate of weight gain, up to age 11 years.
They found that, at birth, children with a higher obesity risk allele score were not any heavier, but in the immediate postnatal period they were less likely to be in the bottom 5% of the population for weight gain (adjusted for birthweight), often termed “failure to thrive.” At six weeks of age, children with a higher obesity risk allele score tended to be longer and heavier, even allowing for weight at birth.
After six weeks of age, the obesity risk allele score was not associated with any further increase in length/height, but it was associated with a more rapid weight gain between birth and age 11 years. BMI is derived from height and weight measurements, and the association between the obesity risk allele score and BMI was weak between birth and age three-and-a-half years, but after that age the association with BMI increased rapidly. By age nine, children with a higher obesity risk allele score tended to be heavier and taller, with more fat on their bodies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The combined obesity allele risk score is associated with higher rates of weight gain and adult obesity, and so the authors conclude that weight gain and growth even in the first few weeks after birth may be the beginning of a pathway of greater adult obesity risk.
A study that tracks a population over time can find associations but it cannot show cause and effect. In addition, only a relatively small proportion (1.7%) of the variation in BMI at nine years of age is explained by the obesity risk allele score.
The authors' method of finding associations between childhood events and adult outcomes via genetic markers of risk of disease as an adult has a significant advantage: the authors did not have to follow the children themselves to adulthood, so their findings are more likely to be relevant to current populations. Despite this, this research does not yield advice for parents how to reduce their children's obesity risk. It does suggest that “failure to thrive” in the first six weeks of life is not simply due to a lack of provision of food by the baby's caregiver but that genetic factors also contribute to early weight gain and growth.
The study looked at the combined obesity risk allele score and the authors did not attempt to identify which individual alleles have greater or weaker associations with weight gain and overweight or obesity. This would require further research based on far larger numbers of babies and children. The findings may also not be relevant to children in other types of setting because of the effects of different nutrition and lifestyles.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Further information is available on the ALSPAC study
The UK National Health Service and other partners provide guidance on establishing a healthy lifestyle for children and families in their Change4Life programme
The International Obesity Taskforce is a global network of expertise and the advocacy arm of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. It works with the World Health Organization, other NGOs, and stakeholders and provides information on overweight and obesity
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US provide guidance and tips on maintaining a healthy weight, including BMI calculators in both metric and Imperial measurements for both adults and children. They also provide BMI growth charts for boys and girls showing how healthy ranges vary for each sex at with age
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health provides growth charts for weight and length/height from birth to age 4 years that are based on WHO 2006 growth standards and have been adapted for use in the UK
The CDC Web site provides information on overweight and obesity in adults and children, including definitions, causes, and data
The CDC also provide information on the role of genes in causing obesity.
The World Health Organization publishes a fact sheet on obesity, overweight and weight management, including links to childhood overweight and obesity
Wikipedia includes an article on childhood obesity (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC2876048  PMID: 20520848
11.  Behavior Problems in Children at Time of First Recognized Seizure and Changes Over the Following Three Years 
Epilepsy & behavior : E&B  2011;21(4):373-381.
The purposes of this 36-month study of children with first recognized seizures were: (a) to describe baseline differences in behavior problems between children with and without prior unrecognized seizures; (b) to identify differences over time in behavior problems between children with seizures and their healthy siblings, (c) to identify the proportion of children with seizures and healthy siblings who were consistently at risk for behavior problems for 36 months; and (d) to identify risk factors for behavior problems 36 months following the first recognized seizure. Risk factors explored included demographic (child age and gender, caregiver education), neuropsychological (IQ, processing speed), seizure (epileptic syndrome, use of antiepileptic drug AED, seizure recurrence) and family (family mastery, satisfaction with family relationships, parent response) variables.
Participants were 300 children ages 6 through 14 years with a first recognized seizure and 196 healthy siblings. Data were collected from medical records, structured interviews, self-report questionnaires, and neuropsychological testing. Behavior problems were measured using the Child Behavior Checklist and the Teacher’s Report Form. Data analyses included descriptive statistics and linear mixed models.
Children with prior unrecognized seizures were at higher risk for behavior problems at baseline. As a group, children with seizures showed a steady reduction in behavior problems over time. Children with seizures were found to have significantly more behavior problems than their siblings over time and significantly more children with seizures (11.3%) than siblings (4.6%) had consistent behavior problems over time. Key risk factors for child behavior problems based on both caregivers and teachers were: less caregiver education, slower initial processing speed, slowing of processing speed over the first 36 months, and a number of family variables including lower levels of family mastery or child satisfaction with family relationships, lower parent support of the child’s autonomy, and lower parent confidence in their ability to discipline their child.
Children with new-onset seizures who are otherwise developing normally have higher rates of behavior problems than their healthy siblings; however, behavior problems are not consistently in the at-risk range in most children during the first three years after seizure onset. When children show behavior problems, family variables that might be targeted include family mastery, parent support of child autonomy, and parent confidence in their ability to handle their children’s behavior.
PMCID: PMC3182400  PMID: 21727031
First Seizures; Children; Behavior Problems; Processing Speed; Family Response
12.  Earlier Mother's Age at Menarche Predicts Rapid Infancy Growth and Childhood Obesity 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(4):e132.
Early menarche tends to be preceded by rapid infancy weight gain and is associated with increased childhood and adult obesity risk. As age at menarche is a heritable trait, we hypothesised that age at menarche in the mother may in turn predict her children's early growth and obesity risk.
Methods and Findings
We tested associations between mother's age at menarche, mother's adult body size and obesity risk, and her children's growth and obesity risk in 6,009 children from the UK population-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort who had growth and fat mass at age 9 y measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. A subgroup of 914 children also had detailed infancy and childhood growth data. In the mothers, earlier menarche was associated with shorter adult height (by 0.64 cm/y), increased weight (0.92 kg/y), and body mass index (BMI, 0.51 kg/m2/y; all p < 0.001). In contrast, in her children, earlier mother's menarche predicted taller height at 9 y (by 0.41 cm/y) and greater weight (0.80 kg/y), BMI (0.29 kg/m2/y), and fat mass index (0.22 kg/m2/year; all p < 0.001). Children in the earliest mother's menarche quintile (≤11 y) were more obese than the oldest quintile (≥15 y) (OR, 2.15, 95% CI 1.46 to 3.17; p < 0.001, adjusted for mother's education and BMI). In the subgroup, children in the earliest quintile showed faster gains in weight (p < 0.001) and height (p < 0.001) only from birth to 2 y, but not from 2 to 9 y (p = 0.3–0.8).
Earlier age at menarche may be a transgenerational marker of a faster growth tempo, characterised by rapid weight gain and growth, particularly during infancy, and leading to taller childhood stature, but likely earlier maturation and therefore shorter adult stature. This growth pattern confers increased childhood and adult obesity risks.
Earlier age at menarche may be a transgenerational marker of faster growth, particularly during infancy, leading to taller childhood stature but earlier maturation and hence shorter adult stature.
Editors' Summary
Childhood obesity is a rapidly growing problem. Twenty-five years ago, overweight children were rare. Now, 155 million of the world's children are overweight and 30–45 million are obese. Overweight and obese children—those having a higher than average body mass index (BMI; weight divided by height squared) for their age and sex—are at increased risk of becoming obese adults. Such people are more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems than lean people. Many factors are involved in the burgeoning size of children. Parental obesity, for example, predisposes children to being overweight. In part, this is because parents influence the eating habits of their offspring and the amount of exercise they do. In addition, though, children inherit genetic factors from their parents that make them more likely to put on weight.
Why Was This Study Done?
To prevent childhood obesity, health care professionals need ways to predict which infants are likely to become obese so that they can give parents advice on controlling their children's weight. In girls, early menarche (the start of menstruation) is associated with an increased risk of childhood and adult obesity and tends to be preceded by rapid weight gain in the first two years of life. Because age at menarche is inherited, the researchers in this study have investigated whether mothers' age at menarche predicts rapid growth in infancy and childhood obesity in their offspring using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). In 1991–1992, this study recruited nearly 14,000 children born in Bristol, UK. Since then, the children have been regularly examined to investigate how their environment and genetic inheritance interact to affect their health.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers measured the growth and fat mass of 6,009 children from ALSPAC at 9 years of age. For 914 of these children, the researchers had detailed data on their growth during infancy and early childhood. They then looked for any associations between the mother's age at menarche (as recalled during pregnancy), mother's adult body size, and the children's growth and obesity risk. In the mothers, earlier menarche was associated with shorter adult height and increased weight and BMI. In the children, those whose mothers had earlier menarche were taller and heavier than those whose mothers had a later menarche. They also had a higher BMI and more body fat. The children whose mothers had their first period before they were 11 were twice as likely to be obese as those whose mothers did not menstruate until they were 15 or older. Finally, for the children with detailed early growth data, those whose mothers had the earliest menarche had faster weight and height gains in the first two years of life (but not in the next seven years) than those whose mothers had the latest menarche.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that earlier mother's menarche predicts a faster growth tempo (the speed at which an individual reaches their adult height) in their offspring, which is characterized by rapid weight and height gain during infancy. This faster growth tempo leads to taller childhood stature, earlier sexual maturity, and—because age at puberty determines adult height—shorter adult stature. An inherited growth pattern like this, the researchers write, confers an increased risk of childhood and adult obesity. As with all studies that look for associations between different measurements, these findings will be affected by the accuracy of the measurements—for example, how well the mothers recalled their age at menarche. Furthermore, because puberty, particularly in girls, is associated with an increase in body fat, a high BMI at age nine might indicate imminent puberty rather than a risk of long-standing obesity—further follow-up studies will clarify this point. Nevertheless, the current findings provide a new factor—earlier mother's menarche—that could help health care professionals identify which infants require early growth monitoring to avoid later obesity.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children has a description of the study and results to date
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on overweight and obesity (in English and Spanish)
US Department of Health and Human Services's program, Smallstep Kids, is an interactive site for children about healthy eating (in English and Spanish)
The International Obesity Taskforce has information on obesity and its prevention
The World Heart Federation's Global Prevention Alliance provides details of international efforts to halt the obesity epidemic and its associated chronic diseases
The Child Growth Foundation has information on childhood growth and its measurement
PMCID: PMC1876410  PMID: 17455989
13.  Prenatal risk factors for mental retardation in young children 
Public Health Reports  1987;102(4 Suppl):55-57.
In a prospective study, prenatal risk factors for mental retardation were identified in two large samples of white and black children followed from gestation to age 7 years in the Collaborative Perinatal Project. Important antecedents of severe and mild retardation include both characteristics of the family and complications of pregnancy.
For the severely retarded, a higher frequency of maternal seizures was a major discriminator in comparisons with higher IQ groups. For a subgroup of the severely retarded that was free of major neurological disorders, maternal urinary tract infection in pregnancy was an important independent risk factor.
Major prenatal discriminators between the mildly retarded and children at higher IQ levels were indices of maternal intelligence, education, socioeconomic status, and amount of prenatal care received.
These and other risk factors found in the samples studied suggest preventive strategies that could reduce the incidence of cognitive deficit in children.
PMCID: PMC1478011  PMID: 19313201
Indian Journal of Psychiatry  2000;42(3):271-274.
The magnitude of the problem of mental retardation in our country hardly needs any exaggeration. The psychological burden that these parents carry has been varied. The present study was undertaken to delineate the psychological problems of parents of mentally retarded children and to establish whether these problems were more prevalent in the parents of mentally retarded children than in the parents of normal children. The material comprised of three groups of subjects: The first group comprised of parents of twenty students of a school for mentally handicapped children; the second group comprised of parents of ten mentally retarded children who were not institutionalised or attended any special school for mentally retarded in the past: the third group comprised of parents of twenty normal school going children. The results of the study conclusively proved that the parents of mentally retarded children had a higher prevalence of psychological morbidity than the parents of normal children. The commonest psychiatric disorder was Dysthymia followed by Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Moderate Depression.
PMCID: PMC2958351  PMID: 21407956
Psychological morbidity; mental retardation; general health questionnaire (GHQ)
15.  Prenatal Treatment for Serious Neurological Sequelae of Congenital Toxoplasmosis: An Observational Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(10):e1000351.
An observational study by Ruth Gilbert and colleagues finds that prenatal treatment of congenital toxoplasmosis could substantially reduce the proportion of infected fetuses that develop serious neurological sequelae.
The effectiveness of prenatal treatment to prevent serious neurological sequelae (SNSD) of congenital toxoplasmosis is not known.
Methods and Findings
Congenital toxoplasmosis was prospectively identified by universal prenatal or neonatal screening in 14 European centres and children were followed for a median of 4 years. We evaluated determinants of postnatal death or SNSD defined by one or more of functional neurological abnormalities, severe bilateral visual impairment, or pregnancy termination for confirmed congenital toxoplasmosis. Two-thirds of the cohort received prenatal treatment (189/293; 65%). 23/293 (8%) fetuses developed SNSD of which nine were pregnancy terminations. Prenatal treatment reduced the risk of SNSD. The odds ratio for prenatal treatment, adjusted for gestational age at maternal seroconversion, was 0.24 (95% Bayesian credible intervals 0.07–0.71). This effect was robust to most sensitivity analyses. The number of infected fetuses needed to be treated to prevent one case of SNSD was three (95% Bayesian credible intervals 2–15) after maternal seroconversion at 10 weeks, and 18 (9–75) at 30 weeks of gestation. Pyrimethamine-sulphonamide treatment did not reduce SNSD compared with spiramycin alone (adjusted odds ratio 0.78, 0.21–2.95). The proportion of live-born infants with intracranial lesions detected postnatally who developed SNSD was 31.0% (17.0%–38.1%).
The finding that prenatal treatment reduced the risk of SNSD in infected fetuses should be interpreted with caution because of the low number of SNSD cases and uncertainty about the timing of maternal seroconversion. As these are observational data, policy decisions about screening require further evidence from a randomized trial of prenatal screening and from cost-effectiveness analyses that take into account the incidence and prevalence of maternal infection.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Toxoplasmosis is a very common parasitic infection. People usually become infected with Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, by eating raw or undercooked meat that contains the parasite, but it can also be contracted by drinking unfiltered water or by handling cat litter. Most people with toxoplasmosis never know they have the disease. However, if a pregnant woman becomes infected with T. gondii, she can transmit the parasite to her unborn baby (fetus). Overall, about a quarter of women who catch toxoplasmosis during pregnancy transmit the parasite to their fetus. If transmission occurs early during pregnancy, the resultant “congenital toxoplasmosis” increases the risk of miscarriage and the risk of the baby being born with brain damage, epilepsy, deafness, blindness, or developmental problems (“serious neurological sequelae”). In the worst cases, babies may be born dead or die soon after birth. Congenital toxoplasmosis caught during the final third of pregnancy may not initially cause any health problems but eyesight problems often develop later in life.
Why Was This Study Done?
Clinicians can find out if a woman has been infected with T. gondii during pregnancy by looking for parasite-specific antibodies (proteins made by the immune system that fight infections) in her blood. If the pattern of antibodies suggests a recent infection, the woman can be given spiramycin or pyrimethamine-sulfonamide, antibiotics that are thought to reduce the risk of transmission to the fetus and the severity of toxoplasmosis in infected fetuses. In some countries where toxoplasmosis is particularly common (for example, France), pregnant women are routinely screened for toxoplasmosis and treated with antibiotics if there are signs of recent infection. But is prenatal treatment an effective way to prevent the serious neurological sequelae or postnatal death (SNSD) associated with congenital toxoplasmosis? In this observational study, the researchers examine this question by studying a group of children identified as having congenital toxoplasmosis by prenatal or neonatal screening in six European countries. An observational study measures outcomes in a group of patients without trying to influence those outcomes by providing a specific treatment.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers followed 293 children in whom congenital toxoplasmosis had been identified by prenatal screening (in France, Austria, and Italy) or by neonatal screening (in Denmark, Sweden, and Poland) for an average 4 years. Two-thirds of the children received prenatal treatment for toxoplasmosis and 23 fetuses (8% of the fetuses) developed SNSD; nine of these cases of SNSD were terminated during pregnancy. By comparing the number of cases of SNSD among children who received prenatal treatment with the number among children who did not receive prenatal treatment, the researchers estimate that prenatal treatment reduced the risk of SNSD by three-quarters. They also estimate that to prevent one case of SNSD after maternal infection at 10 weeks of pregnancy, it would be necessary to treat three fetuses with confirmed infection. To prevent one case of SNSD after maternal infection at 30 weeks of pregnancy, 18 fetuses would need to be treated. Finally, the researchers report that the effectiveness of pyrimethamine-sulfonamide and spiramycin (which is less toxic) was similar, and that a third of live-born infants with brain damage that was detected after birth subsequently developed SNSD.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that prenatal treatment of congenital toxoplasmosis could substantially reduce the proportion of infected fetuses that develop SNDS and would be particularly effective in fetuses whose mothers acquired T. gondii during the first third of pregnancy. These findings should be interpreted with caution, however, because of the small number of affected fetuses in the study and because of uncertainty about the timing of maternal infection. Furthermore, these findings only relate to the relatively benign strain of T. gondii that predominates in Europe and North America; further studies are needed to test whether prenatal treatment is effective against the more virulent strains of the parasite that occur in South America. Finally, because this study is an observational study, its findings might reflect differences between the study participants other than whether or not they received prenatal treatment. These findings need to be confirmed in randomized controlled trials of prenatal screening, therefore, before any policy decisions are made about routine prenatal screening and treatment for congenital toxoplasmosis.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides detailed information about all aspects of toxoplasmosis, including toxoplasmosis in pregnant women (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Services Choices website has information for patients about toxoplasmosis and about the risks of toxoplasmosis during pregnancy
KidsHealth, a resource maintained by the Nemours Foundation (a not-for-profit organization for children's health), provides information for parents about toxoplasmosis (in English and Spanish)
Tommy's, a nonprofit organization that funds research on the health of babies, also has information on toxoplasmosis
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on toxoplasmosis (in English and Spanish)
EUROTOXO contains reports generated by a European consensus development project
Uptodate provides information about toxoplasmosis and pregnancy
PMCID: PMC2953528  PMID: 20967235
16.  The Long-Term Health Consequences of Child Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, and Neglect: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(11):e1001349.
Rosana Norman and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the relationship between child physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect, and subsequent mental and physical health outcomes.
Child sexual abuse is considered a modifiable risk factor for mental disorders across the life course. However the long-term consequences of other forms of child maltreatment have not yet been systematically examined. The aim of this study was to summarise the evidence relating to the possible relationship between child physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect, and subsequent mental and physical health outcomes.
Methods and Findings
A systematic review was conducted using the Medline, EMBASE, and PsycINFO electronic databases up to 26 June 2012. Published cohort, cross-sectional, and case-control studies that examined non-sexual child maltreatment as a risk factor for loss of health were included. All meta-analyses were based on quality-effects models. Out of 285 articles assessed for eligibility, 124 studies satisfied the pre-determined inclusion criteria for meta-analysis. Statistically significant associations were observed between physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect and depressive disorders (physical abuse [odds ratio (OR) = 1.54; 95% CI 1.16–2.04], emotional abuse [OR = 3.06; 95% CI 2.43–3.85], and neglect [OR = 2.11; 95% CI 1.61–2.77]); drug use (physical abuse [OR = 1.92; 95% CI 1.67–2.20], emotional abuse [OR = 1.41; 95% CI 1.11–1.79], and neglect [OR = 1.36; 95% CI 1.21–1.54]); suicide attempts (physical abuse [OR = 3.40; 95% CI 2.17–5.32], emotional abuse [OR = 3.37; 95% CI 2.44–4.67], and neglect [OR = 1.95; 95% CI 1.13–3.37]); and sexually transmitted infections and risky sexual behaviour (physical abuse [OR = 1.78; 95% CI 1.50–2.10], emotional abuse [OR = 1.75; 95% CI 1.49–2.04], and neglect [OR = 1.57; 95% CI 1.39–1.78]). Evidence for causality was assessed using Bradford Hill criteria. While suggestive evidence exists for a relationship between maltreatment and chronic diseases and lifestyle risk factors, more research is required to confirm these relationships.
This overview of the evidence suggests a causal relationship between non-sexual child maltreatment and a range of mental disorders, drug use, suicide attempts, sexually transmitted infections, and risky sexual behaviour. All forms of child maltreatment should be considered important risks to health with a sizeable impact on major contributors to the burden of disease in all parts of the world. The awareness of the serious long-term consequences of child maltreatment should encourage better identification of those at risk and the development of effective interventions to protect children from violence.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Child maltreatment—the abuse and neglect of children—is a global problem. There are four types of child maltreatment—sexual abuse (the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not understand, is unable to give consent to, or is not developmentally prepared for), physical abuse (the use of physical force that harms the child's health, survival, development, or dignity), emotional abuse (the failure to provide a supportive environment by, for example, verbally threatening the child), and neglect (the failure to provide for all aspects of the child's well-being). Most child maltreatment is perpetrated by parents or parental guardians, many of whom were maltreated themselves as children. Other risk factors for parents abusing their children include poverty, mental health problems, and alcohol and drug misuse. Although there is considerable uncertainty about the frequency and severity of child maltreatment, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) about 20% of women and 5%–10% of men report being sexually abused as children, and the prevalence of physical abuse in childhood may be 25%–50%.
Why Was This Study Done?
Child maltreatment has a large public health impact. Sometimes this impact is immediate and direct (injuries and deaths), but, more often, it is long-term, affecting emotional development and overall health. For child sexual abuse, the relationship between abuse and mental disorders in adult life is well-established. Exposure to other forms of child maltreatment has also been associated with a wide range of psychological and behavioral problems, but the health consequences of physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect have not been systematically examined. A better understanding of the long-term health effects of child maltreatment is needed to inform maltreatment prevention strategies and to improve treatment for children who have been abused or neglected. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers quantify the association between exposure to physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect in childhood and mental health and physical health outcomes in later life. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; a meta-analysis is a statistical approach that combines the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 124 studies that investigated the relationship between child physical abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect and various health outcomes. Their meta-analysis of data from these studies provides suggestive evidence that child physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect are causally linked to mental and physical health outcomes. For example, emotionally abused individuals had a three-fold higher risk of developing a depressive disorder than non-abused individuals (an odds ratio [OR] of 3.06). Physically abused and neglected individuals also had a higher risk of developing a depressive disorder than non-abused individuals (ORs of 1.54 and 2.11, respectively). Other mental health disorders associated with child physical abuse, emotional abuse, or neglect included anxiety disorders, drug abuse, and suicidal behavior. Individuals who had been non-sexually maltreated as children also had a higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases and/or risky sexual behavior than non-maltreated individuals. Finally, there was weak and inconsistent evidence that child maltreatment increased the risk of chronic diseases and lifestyle risk factors such as smoking.
What Do These Findings Mean?
By providing suggestive evidence of a causal link between non-sexual child maltreatment and mental health disorders, drug use, suicide attempts, and sexually transmitted diseases and risky sexual behavior, these findings contribute to our understanding of the non-injury health impacts of child maltreatment. Although most of the studies included in the meta-analysis were undertaken in high-income countries, the findings suggest that this link occurs in both high- and low-to-middle-income countries. They also suggest that neglect may be as harmful as physical and emotional abuse. However, they need to be interpreted carefully because of the limitations of this meta-analysis, which include the possibility that children who have been abused may share other, unrecognized factors that are actually the cause of their later mental health problems. Importantly, this confirmation that physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect in childhood are important risk factors for a range of health problems draws attention to the need to develop evidence-based strategies for preventing child maltreatment both to reduce childhood suffering and to alleviate an important risk factor for later health problems.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information on child maltreatment and its prevention (in several languages); Preventing Child Maltreatment: A Guide to Taking Action and Generating Evidence is a 2006 report produced by WHO and the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on child maltreatment and links to additional resources
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is a not-for-profit organization that aims to end all cruelty to children in the UK; Childline is a resource provided by the NSPCC that provides help, information, and support to children who are being abused
The Hideout is a UK-based website that helps children and young people understand domestic abuse
Childhelp is a US not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect; its website includes a selection of personal stories about child maltreatment
PMCID: PMC3507962  PMID: 23209385
Approximately 20% of children in the United States have mental health problems. The factors associated with childhood mental health problems and the associated burdens on families are not well understood. Therefore, our goals were to profile mental health problems in children to identify disparities, and to quantify and identify correlates of family burden. We used the National Survey of Children’s Health, 2003 (N=85,116 children aged 3–17 years) for this analysis. The prevalence, unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios of mental health problems and family burden were calculated for children by child-, family- and health systems- level characteristics. The prevalence of mental health problems among children aged 3–17 years was 18%. The odds of mental health problems were higher for boys, older children, children living in or near relative poverty, those covered by public insurance, children of mothers with fair or poor mental health, children living in homes without two parents, children without a personal doctor or nurse, and children with unmet health care needs. Among families with children with mental health problems, 28% reported family burden. Correlates of family burden included White race, severity, older age, higher income, non-two parent family structure, and having a mother with mental health problems. In conclusion, childhood mental health problems are common and disproportionally affect children with fewer family and health care resources. Families frequently report burden, especially if the mental health problem is moderate to severe, but the correlates of family burden are not the same correlates associated with mental health problems. Understanding those highest at risk for mental health problems and family burden will help assist clinicians and policy makers to ensure appropriate support systems for children and families.
PMCID: PMC3225084  PMID: 22135697
children; disparities; mental health; family burden
18.  Ocular disorder in children with mental retardation 
Indian Journal of Psychiatry  2013;55(2):170-172.
Ocular problems are common in mentally retarded children. Due to population growth these problems are increasing. Prevalence rate is variable from region to region. Data on ocular problems in mentally retarded school children is lacking in this region.
The aim of the present study was to identify the ocular disorders in children with mental retardation attending special schools in a district and to study their relationship with the degree of retardation.
Materials and Methods:
A total of 241 mentally retarded school children in the age group of 6-16 years attending special schools for the mentally retarded children in a district in central India were examined by a team of ophthalmologist, psychiatrist, and a resident in ophthalmology department of a medical college. Complete ocular examination was done. Ocular problems were identified and categorized according to the intelligent quotient.
One hundred and twenty four children (51.45%) had ocular problems. Strabismus (10.37%) and refractive error (20.75%) were the common ocular problems seen in this study. An association was found between the severity of mental retardation and ocular problems (P<0.005). However, no association was seen between the severity of mental retardation and strabismus and refractive error.
A high prevalence of ocular problems was seen in mentally retarded school children. Children with mental retardation should undergo annual ophthalmological check up. Early detection and correction of ocular problems will prevent visual impairment in future.
PMCID: PMC3696242  PMID: 23825853
Children; mental retardation; ocular disorder; refractive error; strabismus
19.  Comparing Psychiatric Symptoms among Children of Substance-Abusing Parents With Different Treatment Histories 
Vulnerable children and youth studies  2012;8(3):10.1080/17450128.2012.738948.
It appears that no studies to date have compared the psychiatric functioning of children of substance-abusing parents (COSs) across substance abuse treatment histories (e.g., inpatient, outpatient, residential). Different treatment histories may reflect differences in the severity of drug use, degree of impairment, or drug of choice, which may result in different symptomatology among COSs. Moreover, this information may be important for family-based treatment and prevention planning. In the current study, we examine psychiatric symptoms experienced by children whose parents have different addiction treatment histories. Eighty-one parents in treatment for a substance use disorder who had a 2-8 year old child completed an anonymous, computerized assessment. Respondents reported on their child's symptomatology as well as their own treatment history and current substance use. Overall, children were remarkably similar in psychiatric functioning and demographic characteristics across parent's treatment histories. However, children whose parents had only received medication management or detoxification had significantly higher somatization scores, more social withdrawal, and greater attention problems than children whose parents received outpatient treatment (but not inpatient/residential treatment). Children whose parents had been treated in an inpatient or residential setting had marginally higher attention problems than children whose parents received outpatient treatment (but not inpatient/residential treatment). Differences across treatment histories were reflected in the severity of psychiatric symptomatology in the young children of parents in treatment. However, given the modest size of these differences, prevention and intervention programs with children of substance-abusing parents may not need to be tailored as a function of parental treatment history as recruitment from various treatment centers may provide a sample with similar characteristics and risk profiles.
PMCID: PMC3832943  PMID: 24273591
20.  Prevalence of Daytime Urinary Incontinence and Related Risk Factors in Primary School Children in Turkey 
Korean Journal of Urology  2014;55(3):213-218.
Urinary incontinence is one of the major urinary symptoms in children and adolescents and can lead to major distress for the affected children and their parents. In accordance with the definitions of the Standardization Committee of the International Children's Continence Society, daytime urinary incontinence (DUI) is uncontrollable leakage of urine during the day. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to investigate the prevalence and associated risk factors of DUI in Turkish primary school children.
Materials and Methods
The questionnaire, which covered sociodemographic variables and the voiding habits of the children, was completed by the parents of 2,353 children who were attending primary school in Denizli, a developing city of Turkey. The children's voiding habits were evaluated by use of the Dysfunctional Voiding and Incontinence Symptoms Score, which is a validated questionnaire. Children with a history of neurological or urological diseases were excluded.
The participation rate was 91.9% (2,164 people). The overall prevalence of DUI was 8.0%. The incidence of DUI tended to decrease with increasing age and was not significantly different between genders (boys, 8.8%; girls, 7.3%; p=0.062). Age, maternal education level, family history of daytime wetting, settlement (urban/rural), history of constipation, urinary tract infection, and urgency were independent risk factors of DUI.
Our findings showed that DUI is a common health problem in primary school children. In an effort to increase awareness of children's voiding problems and the risk factors for urinary dysfunction in the population, educational programs and larger school-based screening should be carried out, especially in regions with low socioeconomic status.
PMCID: PMC3956952  PMID: 24648878
Child; Diurnal enuresis; Prevalence; Risk factors; Urination disorders
21.  Feeding Problems in Healthy Young Children: Prevalence, Related Factors and Feeding Practices 
Pediatric Reports  2013;5(2):38-42.
The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence, characteristics, and factors related to feeding problems among normal children, and the differences in feeding practices between those with and without feeding problems. Caregivers of 402 healthy children aged between one and four years of age were interviewed by pediatricians involved in the research. Data included the child’s medical history, food intake within a day, and feeding behaviors and practices. Parental socio-economic and demographic information, as well as information on parental education and occupation, and their concerns about feeding their children, was collected. Physical examination and anthropometric measurements were taken. The percentage of children identified as having feeding problems was 26.9%. The first child of a family had an increased risk of having feeding problems [P=0.032, odds ratio 1.68, 95% confidence interval (95%CI) 1.04-2.71]. Children with feeding problems were fed less frequently, were less likely to be fed at their own table or at the family table, and had mealtimes longer than 30 min when compared with children without feeding problems (P=0.015, 0.004 and 0.025, respectively). The results highlight that feeding problems in normally developing children are common. During consultations about feeding issues, pediatricians should focus on families with a first child. Topics such as frequency of meals per day, duration of mealtimes, and appropriate places for feeding should be discussed.
PMCID: PMC3718228  PMID: 23904965
children; feeding problems; prevalence
22.  The effects of pre- and postnatal depression in fathers: a natural experiment comparing the effects of exposure to depression on offspring 
Depression in fathers in the postnatal period is associated with an increased risk of behavioural problems in their offspring, particularly for boys. The aim of this study was to examine for differential effects of depression in fathers on children's subsequent psychological functioning via a natural experiment comparing prenatal and postnatal exposure.
In a longitudinal population cohort study (the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)) we examined the associations between depression in fathers measured in the prenatal and postnatal period (measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale), and later behavioural/emotional and psychiatric problems in their children, assessed at ages 3½ and 7 years.
Children whose fathers were depressed in both the prenatal and postnatal periods had the highest risks of subsequent psychopathology, measured by total problems at age 3½ years (Odds Ratio 3.55; 95% confidence interval 2.07, 6.08) and psychiatric diagnosis at age 7 years (OR 2.54; 1.19, 5.41). Few differences emerged when prenatal and postnatal depression exposure were directly compared, but when compared to fathers who were not depressed, boys whose fathers had postnatal depression only had higher rates of conduct problems aged 3½ years (OR 2.14; 1.22, 3.72) whereas sons of the prenatal group did not (OR 1.41; .75, 2.65). These associations changed little when controlling for maternal depression and other potential confounding factors.
The findings of this study suggest that the increased risk of later conduct problems, seen particularly in the sons of depressed fathers, maybe partly mediated through environmental means. In addition, children whose fathers are more chronically depressed appear to be at a higher risk of emotional and behavioural problems. Efforts to identify the precise mechanisms by which transmission of risk may occur should be encouraged to enable the development of focused interventions to mitigate risks for young children.
PMCID: PMC2737608  PMID: 19017023
Depression; child behavioural problems; perinatal; fathers; ALSPAC
23.  Implementing the American Academy of Pediatrics Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Diagnostic Guidelines in Primary Care Settings 
Pediatrics  2004;114(1):129-140.
To evaluate the feasibility of the San Diego Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Project (SANDAP) protocol, a pediatric community-initiated quality improvement effort to foster implementation of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnostic guidelines, and to identify any additional barriers to providing evidence-based ADHD evaluative care.
Seven research-naïve primary care offices in the San Diego area were recruited to participate. Offices were trained in the SANDAP protocol, which included 1) physician education, 2) a standardized assessment packet for parents and teachers, 3) an ADHD coordinator to assist in collection and collation of the assessment packet components, 4) educational materials for clinicians, parents, and teachers, in the form of handouts and a website, and 5) flowcharts delineating local paths for referral to medical subspecialists, mental health practitioners, and school-based professionals. The assessment packet included the parent and teacher versions of the Vanderbilt ADHD Diagnostic Rating Scales. In this study, we chose a conservative interpretation of the AAP ADHD guidelines for diagnosing ADHD, requiring that a child met criteria for ADHD on both the parent and teacher rating scales. A mixed-method analytic strategy was used to address feasibility and barriers, including quantitative surveys with parents and teachers and qualitative debriefing sessions conducted an average of 3 times per year with pediatricians and office staff members.
Between December 2000 and April 2003, 159 children were consecutively enrolled for evaluation of school and/or behavioral problems. Clinically, only 44% of the children met criteria for ADHD on both the parent and teacher scales, and 73.5% of those children were categorized as having the combined subtype. More than 40% of the subjects demonstrated discrepant results on the Vanderbilt scales, with only the parent or teacher endorsing sufficient symptoms to meet the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. Other mental health and learning problems were common in the sample; 58.5% of subjects met screening criteria for oppositional defiant disorder/conduct disorder, 32.7% met screening criteria for anxiety/depression, and approximately one-third had an active individualized education program in place or had received an individualized education program in the past. On evaluation, the SANDAP protocol was acceptable and feasible for all stakeholders. However, additional barriers to implementing the AAP ADHD guidelines were identified, including 1) limited information in the guidelines regarding the use of specific ADHD rating scales, the evaluation and treatment of children with discrepant and/or negative results, and the indications for psychologic evaluation of learning problems, 2) families’ need for education regarding ADHD and support, 3) characteristics of physical health and mental health plans that limited care for children with ADHD, and 4) limited knowledge and use of potential community resources.
Our results indicate that children presenting for evaluation of possible ADHD in primary care offices have complex clinical characteristics. Providers need mechanisms for implementing the ADHD diagnostic guidelines that address the physician education and delivery system design aspects of care that were developed in the SANDAP protocol. Additional barriers were also identified. Careful attention to these factors will be necessary to ensure the sustained provision of quality care for children with ADHD in primary care settings.
PMCID: PMC1519417  PMID: 15231919
pediatrics; primary care; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; guidelines; DSM-IV, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed.; AAP, American Academy of Pediatrics; ADHD, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; NICHQ, National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality; PCP, primary care provider; SANDAP, San Diego ADHD Project; AC, ADHD coordinator; ODD, oppositional defiant disorder; CD, conduct disorder
24.  Psychological interventions for parents of children and adolescents with chronic illness 
Psychological therapies have been developed for parents of children and adolescents with a chronic illness. Such therapies include parent only or parent and child/adolescent, and are designed to treat parent behaviour, parent mental health, child behaviour/disability, child mental health, child symptoms and/or family functioning. No comprehensive, meta-analytic reviews have been published in this area.
To evaluate the effectiveness of psychological therapies that include coping strategies for parents of children/adolescents with chronic illnesses (painful conditions, cancer, diabetes mellitus, asthma, traumatic brain injury, inflammatory bowel diseases, skin diseases or gynaecological disorders). The therapy will aim to improve parent behaviour, parent mental health, child behaviour/disability, child mental health, child symptoms and family functioning.
Search methods
We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE and PsyclNFO for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of psychological interventions that included parents of children and adolescents with a chronic illness. The initial search was from inception of these databases to June 2011 and we conducted a follow-up search from June 2011 to March 2012. We identified additional studies from the reference list of retrieved papers and from discussion with investigators.
Selection criteria
Included studies were RCTs of psychological interventions that delivered treatment to parents of children and adolescents (under 19 years of age) with a chronic illness compared to active control, wait list control or treatment as usual. We excluded studies if the parent component was a coaching intervention, the aim of the intervention was health prevention/promotion, the comparator was a pharmacological treatment, the child/adolescent had an illness not listed above or the study included children with more than one type of chronic illness. Further to this, we excluded studies when the sample size of either comparator group was fewer than 10 at post-treatment.
Data collection and analysis
We included 35 RCTs involving a total of 2723 primary trial participants. Two review authors extracted data from 26 studies. We analysed data using two categories. First, we analysed data by each medical condition across all treatment classes at two time points (immediately post-treatment and the first available follow-up). Second, we analysed data by each treatment class (cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), family therapy (FT), problem solving therapy (PST) and multisystemic therapy (MST)) across all medical conditions at two time points (immediately post-treatment and the first available follow-up). We assessed treatment effectiveness on six possible outcomes: parent behaviour, parent mental health, child behaviour/disability, child mental health, child symptoms and family functioning.
Main results
Across all treatment types, psychological therapies that included parents significantly improved child symptoms for painful conditions immediately post-treatment. Across all medical conditions, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) significantly improved child symptoms and problem solving therapy significantly improved parent behaviour and parent mental health immediately post-treatment. There were no other effects at post-treatment or follow-up. The risk of bias of included studies is described.
Authors' conclusions
There is no evidence on the effectiveness of psychological therapies that include parents in most outcome domains of functioning, for a large number of common chronic illnesses in children. There is good evidence for the effectiveness of including parents in psychological therapies that reduce pain in children with painful conditions. There is also good evidence for the effectiveness of CBT that includes parents for improving the primary symptom complaints when available data were included from chronic illness conditions. Finally, there is good evidence for the effectiveness of problem solving therapy delivered to parents on improving parent problem solving skills and parent mental health. All effects are immediately post-treatment. There are no significant findings for any treatment effects in any condition at follow-up.
PMCID: PMC3551454  PMID: 22895990
25.  Parental Smoking and Education as Determinants of Overweight in Israeli Children 
Preventing Chronic Disease  2006;3(2):A48.
Obesity is a well-recognized risk factor for many chronic diseases. Pediatric overweight is an especially severe problem because its childhood onset increases the overall length of exposure to the detrimental effects of overweight, accelerates the onset of chronic disease, and affects children's physical, psychological, and social development. Several parental traits have been shown to be associated with an increased risk for childhood overweight. In our study, we quantified the mutual effects of parental education and smoking on the risk of filial overweight in a large population-based sample of Israeli schoolchildren, adjusting for the effects of age, sex, and immigration status.
Data were collected in 1997 and 2000 from 8623 Israeli schoolchildren aged 8 to 13 years in two cross-sectional samples. Overweight was defined as body mass index (BMI) of greater than the 85th percentile for age and sex, and severe overweight was defined as BMI greater than the 95th percentile for age and sex.
Mean BMI was positively associated with number of parental smokers for a child. Parental smoking was an independent risk factor for both overweight and severe overweight, with a dose–response relationship between the number of parental smokers and the risk of filial overweight. Children whose parents did not attend college were at increased risk for overweight (odds ratio [OR], 1.21; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03–1.42) and severe overweight (OR, 1.49; 95% CI, 1.09–2.05) compared with children whose parents both attended college. Children with one college-educated parent were at increased risk for severe overweight (OR, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.004–1.71) compared with children whose parents both attended college.
Parental education and smoking are independent risk factors for filial overweight. Children of less-educated, smoking parents should be targeted for overweight prevention and intervention efforts. These findings should also be included as key messages in adult smoking prevention and cessation campaigns. Parents who smoke should be warned that not only is their own health at stake, but their children are also at increased risk for overweight and its associated diseases.
PMCID: PMC1563963  PMID: 16539789

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