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1.  Pregnancy Weight Gain and Childhood Body Weight: A Within-Family Comparison 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001521.
David Ludwig and colleagues examine the within-family relationship between pregnancy weight gain and the offspring's childhood weight gain, thereby reducing the influence of genes and environment.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Excessive pregnancy weight gain is associated with obesity in the offspring, but this relationship may be confounded by genetic and other shared influences. We aimed to examine the association of pregnancy weight gain with body mass index (BMI) in the offspring, using a within-family design to minimize confounding.
Methods and Findings
In this population-based cohort study, we matched records of all live births in Arkansas with state-mandated data on childhood BMI collected in public schools (from August 18, 2003 to June 2, 2011). The cohort included 42,133 women who had more than one singleton pregnancy and their 91,045 offspring. We examined how differences in weight gain that occurred during two or more pregnancies for each woman predicted her children's BMI and odds ratio (OR) of being overweight or obese (BMI≥85th percentile) at a mean age of 11.9 years, using a within-family design. For every additional kg of pregnancy weight gain, childhood BMI increased by 0.0220 (95% CI 0.0134–0.0306, p<0.0001) and the OR of overweight/obesity increased by 1.007 (CI 1.003–1.012, p = 0.0008). Variations in pregnancy weight gain accounted for a 0.43 kg/m2 difference in childhood BMI. After adjustment for birth weight, the association of pregnancy weight gain with childhood BMI was attenuated but remained statistically significant (0.0143 kg/m2 per kg of pregnancy weight gain, CI 0.0057–0.0229, p = 0.0007).
High pregnancy weight gain is associated with increased body weight of the offspring in childhood, and this effect is only partially mediated through higher birth weight. Translation of these findings to public health obesity prevention requires additional study.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Childhood obesity has become a worldwide epidemic. For example, in the United States, the number of obese children has more than doubled in the past 30 years. 7% of American children aged 6–11 years were obese in 1980, compared to nearly 18% in 2010. Because of the rising levels of obesity, the current generation of children may have a shorter life span than their parents for the first time in 200 years.
Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health. The initial problems are usually psychological. Obese children often experience discrimination, leading to low self-esteem and depression. Their physical health also suffers. They are more likely to be at risk of cardiovascular disease from high cholesterol and high blood pressure. They may also develop pre-diabetes or diabetes type II. In the long-term, obese children tend to become obese adults, putting them at risk of premature death from stroke, heart disease, or cancer.
There are many factors that lead to childhood obesity and they often act in combination. A major risk factor, especially for younger children, is having at least one obese parent. The challenge lies in unravelling the complex links between the genetic and environmental factors that are likely to be involved.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several studies have shown that a child's weight is influenced by his/her mother's weight before pregnancy and her weight gain during pregnancy. An obese mother, or a mother who puts on more pregnancy weight than average, is more likely to have an obese child.
One explanation for the effects of pregnancy weight gain is that the mother's overeating directly affects the baby's development. It may change the baby's brain and metabolism in such a way as to increase the child's long-term risk of obesity. Animal studies have confirmed that the offspring of overfed rats show these kinds of physiological changes. However, another possible explanation is that mother and baby share a similar genetic make-up and environment so that a child becomes obese from inheriting genetic risk factors, and growing up in a household where being overweight is the norm.
The studies in humans that have been carried out to date have not been able to distinguish between these explanations. Some have given conflicting results. The aim of this study was therefore to look for evidence of links between pregnancy weight gain and children's weight, using an approach that would separate the impact of genetic and environmental factors from a direct effect on the developing baby.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined data from the population of the US state of Arkansas recorded between 2003 and 2011. They looked at the health records of over 42,000 women who had given birth to more than one child during this period. This gave them information about how much weight the women had gained during each of their pregnancies. The researchers also looked at the school records of the children, over 91,000 in total, which included the children's body mass index (BMI, which factors in both height and weight). They analyzed the data to see if there was a link between the mothers' pregnancy weight gain and the child's BMI at around 12 years of age. Most importantly, they looked at these links within families, comparing children born to the same mother. The rationale for this approach was that these children would share a similar genetic make-up and would have grown up in similar environments. By taking genetics and environment into account in this manner, any remaining evidence of an impact of pregnancy weight gain on the children's BMI would have to be explained by other factors.
The results showed that the amount of weight each mother gained in pregnancy predicted her children's BMI and the likelihood of her children being overweight or obese. For every additional kg the mother gained during pregnancy, the children's BMI increased by 0.022. The children of mothers who put on the most weight had a BMI that was on average 0.43 higher than the children whose mothers had put on the least weight.
The study leaves some questions unanswered, including whether the mother's weight before pregnancy makes a difference to their children's BMI. The researchers were not able to obtain these measurements, nor the weight of the fathers. There may have also been other factors that weren't measured that might explain the links that were found.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study shows that mothers who gain excessive weight during pregnancy increase the risk of their child becoming obese. This appears to be partly due to a direct effect on the developing baby.
These results represent a significant public health concern, even though the impact on an individual basis is relatively small. They could contribute to several hundred thousand cases of childhood obesity worldwide. Importantly, they also suggest that some cases could be prevented by measures to limit excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Such an approach could prove effective, as most mothers will not want to damage their child's health, and might therefore be highly motivated to change their behavior. However, because inadequate weight gain during pregnancy can also adversely affect the developing fetus, it will be essential for women to receive clear information about what constitutes optimal weight gain during pregnancy.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide Childhood Obesity Facts
The UK National Health Service article “How much weight will I put on during my pregnancy?” provides information on pregnancy and weight gain and links to related resources
PMCID: PMC3794857  PMID: 24130460
2.  Psychosocial family factors and glycemic control among children aged 1-15 years with type 1 diabetes: a population-based survey 
BMC Pediatrics  2011;11:118.
Being the parents of children with diabetes is demanding. Jay Belsky's determinants of parenting model emphasizes both the personal psychological resources, the characteristics of the child and contextual sources such as parents' work, marital relations and social network support as important determinants for parenting. To better understand the factors influencing parental functioning among parents of children with type 1 diabetes, we aimed to investigate associations between the children's glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and 1) variables related to the parents' psychological and contextual resources, and 2) frequency of blood glucose measurement as a marker for diabetes-related parenting behavior.
Mothers (n = 103) and fathers (n = 97) of 115 children younger than 16 years old participated in a population-based survey. The questionnaire comprised the Life Orientation Test, the Oslo 3-item Social Support Scale, a single question regarding perceived social limitation because of the child's diabetes, the Relationship Satisfaction Scale and demographic and clinical variables. We investigated associations by using regression analysis. Related to the second aim hypoglycemic events, child age, diabetes duration, insulin regimen and comorbid diseases were included as covariates.
The mean HbA1c was 8.1%, and 29% had HbA1c ≤ 7.5%. In multiple regression analysis, lower HbA1c was associated with higher education and stronger perceptions of social limitation among the mothers. A higher frequency of blood glucose measurement was significantly associated with lower HbA1c in bivariate analysis. Higher child age was significantly associated with higher HbA1c both in bivariate and multivariate analysis. A scatterplot indicated this association to be linear.
Most families do not reach recommended treatment goals for their child with type 1 diabetes. Concerning contextual sources of stress and support, the families who successfully reached the treatment goals had mothers with higher education and experienced a higher degree of social limitations because of the child's diabetes. The continuous increasing HbA1c by age, also during the years before puberty, may indicate a need for further exploring the associations between child characteristics, context-related variables and parenting behavior such as factors facilitating the transfer of parents' responsibility and motivation for continued frequent treatment tasks to their growing children.
PMCID: PMC3282662  PMID: 22185481
3.  Understanding mother-adolescent conflict discussions: Concurrent and across-time prediction from youths’ dispositions and parenting 
Adolescence is often thought of as a period during which the quality of parent–child interactions can be relatively stressed and conflictual. There are individual differences in this regard, however, with only a modest percent of youths experiencing extremely conflictual relationships with their parents. Nonetheless, there is relatively little empirical research on factors in childhood or adolescence that predict individual differences in the quality of parent–adolescent interactions when dealing with potentially conflictual issues. Understanding such individual differences is critical because the quality of both parenting and the parent–adolescent relationship is predictive of a range of developmental outcomes for adolescents.
The goals of the research were to examine dispositional and parenting predictors of the quality of parents’ and their adolescent children’s emotional displays (anger, positive emotion) and verbalizations (negative or positive) when dealing with conflictual issues, and if prediction over time supported continuity versus discontinuity in the factors related to such conflict. We hypothesized that adolescents’ and parents’ conflict behaviors would be predicted by both childhood and concurrent parenting and child dispositions (and related problem behaviors) and that we would find evidence of both parent- and child-driven pathways.
Mothers and adolescents (N = 126, M age = 13 years) participated in a discussion of conflictual issues. A multimethod, multireporter (mother, teacher, and sometimes adolescent reports) longitudinal approach (over 4 years) was used to assess adolescents’ dispositional characteristics (control/regulation, resiliency, and negative emotionality), youths’ externalizing problems, and parenting variables (warmth, positive expressivity, discussion of emotion, positive and negative family expressivity). Higher quality conflict reactions (i.e., less negative and/or more positive) were related to both concurrent and antecedent measures of children’s dispositional characteristics and externalizing problems, with findings for control/regulation and negative emotionality being much more consistent for daughters than sons. Higher quality conflict reactions were also related to higher quality parenting in the past, positive rather than negative parent–child interactions during a contemporaneous nonconflictual task, and reported intensity of conflict in the past month. In growth curves, conflict quality was primarily predicted by the intercept (i.e., initial levels) of dispositional measures and parenting, although maintenance or less decrement in positive parenting, greater decline in child externalizing problems, and a greater increase in control/regulation over time predicted more desirable conflict reactions. In structural equation models in which an aspect of parenting and a child dispositional variable were used to predict conflict reactions, there was continuity of both type of predictors, parenting was a unique predictor of mothers’ (but not adolescents’) conflict reactions (and sometimes mediated the relations of child dispositions to conflict reactions), and child dispositions uniquely predicted adolescents’ reactions and sometimes mothers’ conflict reactions. The findings suggest that parent–adolescent conflict may be influenced by both child characteristics and quality of prior and concurrent parenting, and that in this pattern of relations, child effects are more evident than parent effects.
PMCID: PMC2553724  PMID: 18702792
4.  Maternal Coping Strategies in Response to a Child’s Chronic and Oncological Disease: a Cross-Cultural Study in Italy and Portugal 
Pediatric Reports  2013;5(2):43-47.
A child’s oncological or chronic disease is a stressful situation for parents. This stress may make it difficult for appropriate management strategies aimed at promoting the child’s wellbeing and helping him or her cope with a disease to be adopted. In particular, this study focuses on the possible connections between the variable national cultural influences and the parental strategies used to cope with a child’s severe disease by comparing the experiences of Italian and Portuguese mothers. The study investigates differences and cross-cultural elements among the coping strategies used by Italian and Portuguese mothers of children with oncological or chronic disease. Two groups of mothers took part: 59 Italian mothers (average age 37.7 years; SD=4.5) and 36 Portuguese mothers (average age 39.3 years; SD=4.6). The tool used was the Italian and the Portuguese versions of the COPE inventory that measures five coping strategies: Social Support, Avoidance Coping, Positive Aptitude, Religious Faith and Humor, Active Coping. There were statistically significant differences between Portuguese and Italian mothers regarding Social Support (F(3, 94)=6.32, P=0.014, ɳ2=0.065), Religious Faith and Humor (F(3, 94)=20.06, P=0.001, ɳ2=0.18, higher values for Portuguese mothers) and Avoidance Coping (F(3, 94)=3.30, P=0.06, ɳ2=0.035, higher values for Italian mothers). Regarding child’s disease, the only statistically significant difference was in Religious Faith and Humor (F(3, 94)=7.49, P=0.007, ɳ2=0.076, higher values for mothers of children with chronic disease). The findings of specific cultural transversalities provide the basis for reflection on important factors emerging on the relationship between physicians and parents. In fact, mothers’ coping abilities may allow health workers involved in a child’s care not only to understand how parents face a distressful event, but also to provide them with professional support.
PMCID: PMC3718229  PMID: 23904966
maternal coping; chronic disease; oncological disease; emotional distress
5.  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
6.  Disclosure of sexual abuse, and personal and familial factors as predictors of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in school-aged girls 
Paediatrics & Child Health  2008;13(6):479-486.
The aim of the present study was to analyze predictive factors of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in school-aged girls.
A group (n=67) of seven- to 12 year-old girls consulting a paediatric hospital following disclosure of sexual abuse were compared with a group (n=67) of nonabused girls. The girls answered questionnaires related to PTSD, coping, sense of hope, self-esteem, sibling relationships and perceived social support. Mothers answered questionnaires related to family relationships, family violence, perceived support given and psychological distress.
The mean ± SD age of the girls was 9±1.5 years. In the sexual abuse group, single-parent families were more frequent (53.7% versus 32.3%; P<0.01), mothers were less educated (10.8% versus 13.1%; P<0.0001) and socioeconomic level was lower (36.8% versus 47.9%; P<0.0001). A history of sexual abuse in childhood was reported by 50% of mothers of sexually abused children and 37% of mothers of the comparison group children. A higher prevalence of PTSD clinical scores was found for the girls reporting sexual abuse (46.3% versus 18.5%; P<0.001). Regression analyses controlling for parental education level and family structure revealed that group membership (sexual abuse group versus comparison group) was predictive of the level of PTSD symptoms. In addition, the mother’s level of support, the child’s perception of parental support and the child’s reliance on avoidance coping predicted PTSD symptoms. Sense of hope and the child witnessing interparental physical violence were marginally associated with the level of PTSD symptoms.
PTSD was common in the present study’s sample of sexually abused girls. Because predictive factors relate to both child-related variables and familial context, interventions for this population should target not only the child, but also the family.
PMCID: PMC2532913  PMID: 19436431
Child; Mother; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Sexual abuse
7.  Feeding styles and child weight status among recent immigrant mother-child dyads 
Research has shown that parental feeding styles may influence children’s food consumption, energy intake, and ultimately, weight status. We examine this relationship, among recent immigrants to the US. Given that immigrant parents and children are at greater risk for becoming overweight/obese with increased time in the US, identification of risk factors for weight gain is critical.
Baseline data was collected on 383 mother-child dyads enrolled in Live Well, a community-based, participatory, randomized controlled lifestyle intervention to prevent weight gain in recent immigrant mothers. Socio-demographic information together with heights and weights were collected for both mother and child. Acculturation, behavioral data, and responses to the Caregiver’s Feeding Styles Questionnaire (CFSQ) were also obtained from the mother.
The children’s average age was 6.2 ± 2.7 years, 58% male. Mothers had been in the country for an average of 6.0 ± 3.3 years, and are Brazilian (36%), Haitian (34%) and Latino (30%). Seventy-two percent of the mothers were overweight/obese, while 43% of the children were overweight/obese. Fifteen percent of mothers reported their feeding style as being high demanding/high responsive; 32% as being high demanding/low responsive; 34% as being low demanding/high responsive and 18% as being low demanding/low responsive. In bivariate analyses, feeding styles significantly differed by child BMIz-score, ethnic group, and mother’s perceived stress. In multiple linear regression, a low demanding/high responsive feeding style was found to be positively associated (ß = 0.56) with a higher child weight as compared to high demanding/high responsive, controlling for known covariates (p = 0.01).
Most mothers report having a low demanding/high responsive feeding style, which is associated with higher child weight status in this diverse immigrant population. This finding adds to the growing literature that suggests this type of feeding style may be a risk factor for childhood obesity. Further research is needed to help understand the larger socio-cultural context and its influence on feeding dynamics among immigrant families and families of lower incomes. How parents establish a certain feeding style in their home country compared to when they move to the US “obesogenic” environment, should also be explored.
PMCID: PMC3439673  PMID: 22642962
Feeding styles; Children; Obesity; Immigrants
8.  Anxiety/Stress among Mothers Living with HIV: Effects on Parenting Skills & Child Outcomes 
AIDS care  2010;22(12):1449-1458.
Parental HIV infection has been associated with negative outcomes for children, and parenting skills appear to be one mechanism operating in that association. The present study focuses on the relations between maternal stress, parenting, and child functioning among families where the mother is living with HIV. Sixty-nine mothers with at least one child between 6 and 12 years old completed questionnaires at the baseline assessment of an intervention designed to facilitate maternal disclosure of HIV status. Respondents were assessed using multiple measures of stress/anxiety, and parenting skills and child outcomes, including the Parenting Stress Index, the RAND Mental Health Inventory, the Family Routines Questionnaire, and the Child Behavior Checklist. Covariance structural modeling was used to assess the variable relationships, with latent constructs created for maternal anxiety/stress, parenting skills, and child problem behaviors (both direct and indirect effects were evaluated, with a model-based bootstrap used to verify model stability). Results demonstrated that maternal stress was negatively associated with a broad range of parenting skills, and that parenting skills were negatively associated with child problem behaviors. Mothers living with HIV who are anxious about their own health and functioning, and who were more stressed in their parental role, were more likely to exhibit poorer parenting skills—specifically to engage children less frequently in family routines (e.g., eating meals together, having a bedtime routine), poorer parent-child communication, and poorer and less consistent parenting discipline. Not uncommonly, mothers living with HIV experience a range of stressors above and beyond those related to their illness (e.g., poverty, residence in high risk and low resource communities, discrimination). Results demonstrate the need for interventions designed to decrease maternal stress and enhance parenting skills for families affected by HIV.
PMCID: PMC3000905  PMID: 20824552
HIV; maternal stress; parenting; child functioning
9.  292 The Relationship Between Maternal Atopy and Childhood Asthma 
The diagnostic difficulty of childhood asthma leads to widespread under-diagnosis, which negatively affects the quality of life of asthmatic children. The presence of atopy in children is often used as a clinical tool to assist in making the diagnosis. However, local studies have demonstrated that atopy occurs in fewer asthmatic children than previously thought. This brings into question the association between allergy and asthma. The purpose of this study was to determine if a family history of allergy is predictive of atopic asthma in children, by comparing allergy, history of asthma and allergic symptoms, in mothers of atopic versus non-atopic asthmatic children.
A random sample of children and their mothers attending the Children's Chest and Allergy Clinic at Steve Biko Academic Hospital were enrolled. Skin-prick testing or radioallergosorbent test results, of the children were obtained from the child's hospital records. Mothers completed a detailed questionnaire which included demographic details, a history of symptoms suggestive of ‘atopy’ and allergic diseases and a history of asthma. Skin prick testing was performed on the mothers.
100 children and their parents were enrolled. 64 mothers to atopic children were used as the study group and 36 mothers to non-atopic children were used as the control group. Of the 48 mothers with a positive skin prick test, 30 (64%) had atopic children (P = 0.836). Of the 16 mothers with asthma, 14 (88%) had atopic children (P = 0.045). Of the 70 mothers with a history of symptoms suggestive of an allergic disease, 45 (64%) had children with atopic asthma (P = 1.0). Of the 77 mothers who were considered to be allergic, 50 (65%) had children with atopic asthma (P = 0.806).
Both maternal skin prick positivity and a history of symptoms suggestive of allergic disease, are poor predictors of atopic asthma in children. This is true even in the mothers were considered to be allergic. However maternal asthma is a specific predictor of childhood atopic asthma with a good positive predictive and a high odds ratio. Further studies need to be conducted to compare the epidemiology of allergic asthma in different population groups.
PMCID: PMC3513181
10.  Impact of Prior Traumatic Life Events on Parental Early Stage Reactions following a Child's Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57556.
In pediatric oncology, effective clinic–based management of acute and long–term distress in families calls for investigation of determinants of parents' psychological response to the child's cancer. We examined the relationship between parents' prior exposure to traumatic life events (TLE) and the occurrence of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) following their child's cancer diagnosis. Factors mediating the TLE–PTSS relationship were analyzed.
The study comprised 169 parents (97 mothers, 72 fathers) of 103 cancer diagnosed children (median age: 5,9 years; range 0.1–19.7 years). Thirty five parents were of immigrant origin (20.7%). Prior TLE were collated using a standardized questionnaire, PTSS was assessed using the Impact of Events–Revised (IES–R) questionnaire covering intrusion, avoidance and hyperarousal symptoms. The predictive significance of prior TLE on PTSS was tested in adjusted regression models.
Mothers demonstrated more severe PTSS across all symptom dimensions. TLE were associated with significantly increased hyperarousal symptoms. Parents' gender, age and immigrant status did not significantly influence the TLE–PTSS relationship.
Prior traumatic life–events aggravate posttraumatic hyperarousal symptoms. In clinic–based psychological care of parents of high–risk pediatric patients, attention needs to be paid to life history, and to heightened vulnerability to PTSS associated with female gender.
PMCID: PMC3597714  PMID: 23516408
11.  Young Children's Probability of Dying Before and After Their Mother's Death: A Rural South African Population-Based Surveillance Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(3):e1001409.
Brian Houle and colleagues examine the temporal relationship between mother and child death by using 15 years of data (1994–2008) from household surveys conducted in the Agincourt sub-district of South Africa.
There is evidence that a young child's risk of dying increases following the mother's death, but little is known about the risk when the mother becomes very ill prior to her death. We hypothesized that children would be more likely to die during the period several months before their mother's death, as well as for several months after her death. Therefore we investigated the relationship between young children's likelihood of dying and the timing of their mother's death and, in particular, the existence of a critical period of increased risk.
Methods and Findings
Data from a health and socio-demographic surveillance system in rural South Africa were collected on children 0–5 y of age from 1 January 1994 to 31 December 2008. Discrete time survival analysis was used to estimate children's probability of dying before and after their mother's death, accounting for moderators. 1,244 children (3% of sample) died from 1994 to 2008. The probability of child death began to rise 6–11 mo prior to the mother's death and increased markedly during the 2 mo immediately before the month of her death (odds ratio [OR] 7.1 [95% CI 3.9–12.7]), in the month of her death (OR 12.6 [6.2–25.3]), and during the 2 mo following her death (OR 7.0 [3.2–15.6]). This increase in the probability of dying was more pronounced for children whose mothers died of AIDS or tuberculosis compared to other causes of death, but the pattern remained for causes unrelated to AIDS/tuberculosis. Infants aged 0–6 mo at the time of their mother's death were nine times more likely to die than children aged 2–5 y. The limitations of the study included the lack of knowledge about precisely when a very ill mother will die, a lack of information about child nutrition and care, and the diagnosis of AIDS deaths by verbal autopsy rather than serostatus.
Young children in lower income settings are more likely to die not only after their mother's death but also in the months before, when she is seriously ill. Interventions are urgently needed to support families both when the mother becomes very ill and after her death.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Over the past few years, there has been enormous international effort to meet the target set by Millennium Development Goal 4—to reduce the under-five child mortality rate by two-thirds from the 1990 level by 2015. There has been some encouraging progress, and according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization, in 2011, just under 7 million children less than five years died, a fall of almost 3 million from a decade ago. However, such efforts must also consider the health of the mother, as it is now also well established that the health of children is intrinsically linked to their mother's health: there is strong evidence from low- and middle-income countries that children's risk of dying increases around the time of their mother's death, particularly relating to the HIV pandemic in Africa.
Why Was This Study Done?
Previous studies examining the timing of a child's death relative to that of their mother have mainly focused on the period after the mother's death. So far, there have been few studies examining the link between a child's death and the period when his/her mother becomes ill and unable to care for and feed her child. In this study from the Agincourt sub-district in northeast South Africa, the researchers investigated the relationship between young children's chance (odds) of dying and the timing of their mother's death, particularly to examine whether there were critical periods of risk for children before their mother's death.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the health and socio-demographic surveillance system in the area, which had 15 years (1994–2008) of information from yearly household surveys. The researchers focused on young children (0–6 months, 7–23 months, and 24–59 months) whose mothers had died, and through a statistical model, analysed the changes in the child's chance (odds) of dying from a year before the mother's death through to any time after her death during the study period. The cause of the mother's death was identified from verbal autopsy and categorized as being related to AIDS or tuberculosis (chronic) or other (mostly acute) causes not related to these infections. The researchers took other factors into account in their analysis and compared the odds of dying for children whose mothers died with those whose mothers were alive.
Using these methods, the researchers found that a total of 1,244 children (3% of the total sample) died between 1994 and 2008. Importantly, the researchers found that although the period when children are more likely to die began to increase in the period 6–11 months before their mother's death, there were three distinct periods of a much higher chance (odds) of death: the period 1–2 months before the month in which their mother died (odds ratio 7.1), the month of her death (odds ratio 12.6), and the period 1–2 months following her death (odds ratio 7.0). Furthermore, during the five-month period around the time of their mother's death, children (both boys and girls) aged 0–6 months were about nine times more likely to die than children aged 24–59 months. Finally, children were about 1.5 times more likely to die if their mother died of an AIDS/tuberculosis-related cause.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These finding suggest that in low-income settings, young children are more likely to die in the months before their mother's death, when she is seriously ill, not just in the period after her death. The chance of dying is particularly increased in very young children (0–6 months) and in children whose mother died of HIV/tuberculosis-related causes. Although this study had several limitations, such as limited information on the child's cause of death, this study highlights the urgent need for proactive and coordinated community-based interventions to support families, especially vulnerable children, when a mother becomes seriously ill, in addition to the period following her death.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The Countdown to 2015 initiative has the latest country information on progress in reducing maternal, neonatal, and child deaths
The World Health Organization has more information on Millennium Development Goal 4
The Joint United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS has information about the number of deaths from HIV-related causes
MRC/Wits Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt) has more information on the research platform that made this study possible
PMCID: PMC3608552  PMID: 23555200
12.  Effects of massage therapy of asthmatic children on the anxiety level of mothers 
Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood and its prevalence is increasing all over the world. Asthma influences on many aspects of family daily life. Health care of children with chronic asthma can have deep impact on health and welfare of the family members. Studies showed a relation between the life quality of children suffering from asthma and the anxiety level of parents. These parents are looking for ways to confront with their stress, to reduce their anxiety in encountering with their asthmatic children, and to improve their performance. This research was accomplished with the aim of determining the influence of massage therapy on anxiety level of mothers with asthmatic children.
This was a quasi-experimental study with two groups and a pretest and posttest design. The samples of research were 60 mothers of 5-14 year-old asthmatic children who were under treatment in medical centers of Isfahan. They were randomly divided into two groups of control and massage therapy by convenience sampling method. The data were collected by standard Spielberger questionnaire. Mothers of massage group were trained to massage head, neck, face, shoulder, hand, leg, and back of their children every night before bedtime for one month while there was no intervention for the control group during this month except the standard treatment. In both groups, the Spielberger standard questionnaire was filled by mothers. The data were analyzed by descriptive analysis, independent t-test, paired-t test, and chi-square test.
The results showed no significant difference in mean anxiety level between the two groups before the intervention but there was a significant difference between them after intervention (p < 0.03). Also, there was a significant difference in mean level of anxiety score of mothers before and after the intervention in massage group (p < 0.001).
The anxiety level of mothers can be reduced by effective utilization of daily child massage therapy and giving an active role to the mothers in caring and treating the child. Daily massage helped mothers to have more sense of participation in caring their children and as a non-pharmacological method can be accompanied with pharmacological methods.
PMCID: PMC3093168  PMID: 21589776
Asthma; anxiety; children; massage therapy; mothers
13.  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
14.  “A model of mother-child Adjustment in Arab Muslim Immigrants to the US” 
Social science & medicine (1982)  2009;69(9):1377-1386.
We examined the mother-child adjustment and child behavior problems in Arab Muslim immigrant families residing in the U.S.A. The sample of 635 mother-child dyads was comprised of mothers who emigrated from 1989 or later and had at least one early adolescent child between the ages of 11 to 15 years old who was also willing to participate. Arabic speaking research assistants collected the data from the mothers and children using established measures of maternal and child stressors, coping, and social support; maternal distress; parent-child relationship; and child behavior problems. A structural equation model (SEM) was specified a priori with 17 predicted pathways. With a few exceptions, the final SEM model was highly consistent with the proposed model and had a good fit to the data. The model accounted for 67% of the variance in child behavior problems. Child stressors, mother-child relationship, and maternal stressors were the causal variables that contributed the most to child behavior problems. The model also accounted for 27% of the variance in mother-child relationship. Child active coping, child gender, mother’s education, and maternal distress were all predictive of the mother-child relationship. Mother-child relationship also mediated the effects of maternal distress and child active coping on child behavior problems. These findings indicate that immigrant mothers contribute greatly to adolescent adjustment, both as a source of risk and protection. These findings also suggest that intervening with immigrant mothers to reduce their stress and strengthening the parent-child relationship are two important areas for promoting adolescent adjustment.
PMCID: PMC2793083  PMID: 19758737
USA; Arabs; immigration; mother-child adjustment; children; child behavior problems
15.  Which family factors predict children’s externalizing behaviors following discharge from psychiatric inpatient treatment? 
Parents’ behavior management practices, parental stress, and family environment are highly pertinent to children’s conduct problems. Preadolescents’ psychiatric hospitalization usually arises because of severe conduct problems, so the relationships of family-related variables to postdischarge functioning warrant investigation. This study examined postdischarge clinical course and select family factors to model outcomes via a) predictors measured at admission, b) predictors measured concurrently with outcome, and c) changes in predictor values from admission through follow-up.
In a prospective follow-up of 107 child psychiatry inpatients, caregivers completed rating scales pertaining to their child’s behavior, parenting practices, parenting stress, caregiver strain, and their own psychological distress at admission and three, six, and 12 months after discharge.
The magnitude of reductions in parenting stress between admission and follow-up bore the strongest relationship to improvements in externalizing behavior. The largest and most sustained decreases in externalizing behavior arose among youngsters whose parents reported high parenting stress at admission and low parenting stress after discharge. By contrast, children whose parents reported low parenting stress at admission and follow-up showed significantly less postdischarge improvement. Parenting stress changes were not attributable to changes in behavioral symptoms. Parenting stress eclipsed relationships between behavior management practices and child outcomes, suggesting that parenting stress might have a mediational role.
High initial parenting stress disposed to better outcomes over the year of follow-up. Consistently low stress predicted less improvement. Higher stress at admission may imply more advantageous parent–child relationships or motivation for subsequent persistence with treatment. Interventions that ameliorate high stress may warrant further study. Low parenting stress might signify disengagement, or, alternatively, that parents of some chronically impaired children become rather inured to fluctuations in behavioral problems. If confirmed, further examination of these and other accounts for a relationship between low parenting stress and suboptimal child outcome seems warranted.
PMCID: PMC2945501  PMID: 17076752
Behavior disorder; family processes; hospitalization; longitudinal studies; outcome; parenting; psychiatric services
16.  Physical Aggression During Early Childhood: Trajectories and Predictors 
Pediatrics  2004;114(1):e43-e50.
Physical aggression in children is a major public health problem. Not only is childhood physical aggression a precursor of the physical and mental health problems that will be visited on victims, but also aggressive children themselves are at higher risk of alcohol and drug abuse, accidents, violent crimes, depression, suicide attempts, spouse abuse, and neglectful and abusive parenting. Furthermore, violence commonly results in serious injuries to the perpetrators themselves. Although it is unusual for young children to harm seriously the targets of their physical aggression, studies of physical aggression during infancy indicate that by 17 months of age, the large majority of children are physically aggressive toward siblings, peers, and adults. This study aimed, first, to identify the trajectories of physical aggression during early childhood and, second, to identify antecedents of high levels of physical aggression early in life. Such antecedents could help to understand better the developmental origins of violence later in life and to identify targets for preventive interventions.
A random population sample of 572 families with a 5-month-old newborn was recruited. Assessments of physical aggression frequency were obtained from mothers at 17, 30, and 42 months after birth. Using a semiparametric, mixture model, distinct clusters of physical aggression trajectories were identified. Multivariate logit regression analysis was then used to identify which family and child characteristics, before 5 months of age, predict individuals on a high-level physical aggression trajectory from 17 to 42 months after birth.
Three trajectories of physical aggression were identified. The first was composed of children who displayed little or no physical aggression. These individuals were estimated to account for ~28% of the sample. The largest group, estimated at ~58% of the sample, followed a rising trajectory of modest aggression. Finally, a group, estimated to comprise ~14% of the sample, followed a rising trajectory of high physical aggression. Best predictors before or at birth of the high physical aggression trajectory group, controlling for the levels of the other risk factors, were having young siblings (odds ratio [OR]: 4.00; confidence interval [CI]: 2.2–7.4), mothers with high levels of antisocial behavior before the end of high school (OR: 3.1; CI: 1.1–8.6), mothers who started having children early (OR: 3.1; CI: 1.4–6.8), families with low income (OR: 2.6; CI: 1.3–5.2), and mothers who smoked during pregnancy (OR: 2.2; CI: 1.1–4.1). Best predictors at 5 months of age were mothers’ coercive parenting behavior (OR: 2.3; CI: 1.1–4.7) and family dysfunction (OR: 2.2; CI: 1.2–4.1). The OR for a high-aggression trajectory was 10.9 for children whose mother reported both high levels of antisocial behavior and early childbearing.
Most children have initiated the use of physical aggression during infancy, and most will learn to use alternatives in the following years before they enter primary school. Humans seem to learn to regulate the use of physical aggression during the preschool years. Those who do not, seem to be at highest risk of serious violent behavior during adolescence and adulthood. Results from the present study indicate that children who are at highest risk of not learning to regulate physical aggression in early childhood have mothers with a history of antisocial behavior during their school years, mothers who start childbearing early and who smoke during pregnancy, and parents who have low income and have serious problems living together. All of these variables are relatively easy to measure during pregnancy. Preventive interventions should target families with high-risk profiles on these variables. Experiments with such programs have shown long-term impacts on child abuse and child antisocial behavior. However, these impacts were not observed in families with physical violence. The problem may be that the prevention programs that were provided did not specifically target the parents’ control over their physical aggression and their skills in teaching their infant not to be physically aggressive. Most intervention programs to prevent youth physical aggression have targeted school-age children. If children normally learn not to be physically aggressive during the preschool years, then one would expect that interventions that target infants who are at high risk of chronic physical aggression would have more of an impact than interventions 5 to 10 years later, when physical aggression has become a way of life.
PMCID: PMC3283570  PMID: 15231972 CAMSID: cams2126
physical aggression; early childhood; trajectories; predictors
17.  Anxiety and stress in mothers and fathers in the 24 h after their child’s surgery 
Background and objective
Surgery in a paediatric setting stresses children and their parents. Previous studies have focused on children and the preoperative period; however, the 24 h after child surgery are highly stressful for parents as their child is still physically recovering and physician–parent communication is vital. The aims of this study are to investigate the impact of three levels of severity of paediatric surgery on mothers’ and fathers’ anxiety and stress and to identify factors that contribute to parental anxiety and acute stress symptoms in the first 24 h after child surgery.
Patients and methods
A total of 154 parents (91 mothers, 63 fathers) of children who had just undergone elective surgery for a major intervention (n = 41), minor intervention (n = 64) or day surgery (n = 49) completed questionnaires aimed at assessing levels of state anxiety and acute stress symptoms. Social network, socio-economic status and parental health locus of control were evaluated as contributors.
Parents reported high levels of state anxiety (26% had scores on the state scale 2 standard deviations above the norm) and acute stress symptoms (28% in at least one of the four acute stress disorder symptom categories). Child’s type of surgery is related to parental anxiety [F(2,134) = 38.12, P = 0.0001, η2 = 0.175] and acute stress symptoms [F(2,133) = 31.21, P = 0.0001, η2 = 0.133]. Parental state anxiety was predicted by parent’s gender, trait anxiety and health external locus of control. Parent’s number of acute stress symptoms was predicted by parental trait anxiety, health external locus of control, parent’s level of education and the number of social contacts.
There is a need to take into consideration parental anxiety and distress in the 24 h after child surgery. Parental well-being is related to several characteristics including the severity of child surgery; these aspects should be taken into consideration when interacting with parents in the aftermath of their child’s surgery.
PMCID: PMC3496245  PMID: 19228156
paediatric surgery; parental anxiety and acute stress symptoms; parent–physician communication
18.  Differences in problem behaviour among ethnic minority and majority preschoolers in the Netherlands and the role of family functioning and parenting factors as mediators: the Generation R Study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:1092.
Studies have shown that, compared to native counterparts, preschoolers from ethnic minorities are at an increased risk of problem behaviour. Socio-economic factors only partly explain this increased risk. This study aimed to further unravel the differences in problem behaviour among ethnic minority and native preschoolers by examining the mediating role of family functioning and parenting factors.
We included 4,282 preschoolers participating in the Generation R Study, an ethnically-diverse cohort study with inclusion in early pregnancy. At child age 3 years, parents completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL/1,5-5); information on demographics, socio-economic status and measures of family functioning (maternal psychopathology; general family functioning) and parenting (parenting stress; harsh parenting) were retrieved from questionnaires. CBCL Total Problems scores in each ethnic subgroup were compared with scores in the Dutch reference population. Mediation was evaluated using multivariate regression models.
After adjustment for confounders, preschoolers from ethnic minorities were more likely to present problem behaviour than the Dutch subgroup (e.g. CBCL Total Problems Turkish subgroup (OR 7.0 (95% CI 4.9; 10.1)). When considering generational status, children of first generation immigrants were worse off than the second generation (P<0.01). Adjustment for socio-economic factors mediated the association between the ethnic minority status and child problem behaviour (e.g. attenuation in OR by 54.4% (P<0.05) from OR 5.1 (95% CI 2.8; 9.4) to OR 2.9 (95% CI 1.5; 5.6) in Cape Verdean subgroup). However, associations remained significant in most ethnic subgroups. A final adjustment for family functioning and parenting factors further attenuated the association (e.g. attenuation in OR by 55.5% (P<0.05) from OR 2.2 (95% CI 1.3; 4.4) to OR 1.5 (95% CI 1.0; 2.4) in European other subgroup).
This study showed that preschoolers from ethnic minorities and particularly children of first generation immigrants are at an increased risk of problem behaviour compared to children born to a Dutch mother. Although socio-economic factors were found to partly explain the association between the ethnic minority status and child problem behaviour, a similar part was explained by family functioning and parenting factors. Considering these findings, it is important for health care workers to also be attentive to symptoms of parental psychopathology (e.g. depression), poor family functioning, high levels of parenting stress or harsh parenting in first and second generation immigrants with young children.
PMCID: PMC3577476  PMID: 23253397
Ethnicity; Migration; Paediatric; Psychosocial factors; Mental Health
19.  Association of Breastfeeding With Maternal Control of Infant Feeding at Age 1 Year 
Pediatrics  2004;114(5):e577-e583.
Previous studies have found that breastfeeding may protect infants against future overweight. One proposed mechanism is that breastfeeding, compared with bottle-feeding, may promote maternal feeding styles that are less controlling and more responsive to infant cues of hunger and satiety, thereby allowing infants greater self-regulation of energy intake. The objective of this study was to examine whether preponderance of breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life and breastfeeding duration are associated with less maternal restrictive behavior and less pressure to eat.
We studied 1160 mother–infant pairs in Project Viva, an ongoing prospective cohort study of pregnant mothers and their children. The main outcome measures were mothers’ reports of restricting their children’s food intake and of pressuring their children to eat more food, as measured by a modified Child Feeding Questionnaire (CFQ) at 1 year postpartum. Restriction was defined by strongly agreeing or agreeing with the following question from the modified CFQ: “I have to be careful not to feed my child too much.” We derived a continuous pressure to eat score from 5 questions of the modified CFQ. We used multiple logistic regression to examine the association between preponderance of breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life, breastfeeding duration, and mothers’ restriction of children’s access to food. We used multiple linear regression, both before and after adjusting for several groups of confounders, to predict the effects of breastfeeding on the mothers’ scores for pressuring their children to eat.
The mean (SD) age of the women was 32.4 (4.8) years; 24% of the women were nonwhite, and 32% were primigravidas. At 6 months postpartum, 24% of the mothers were exclusively breastfeeding, 25% were mixed feeding, 41% had weaned, and 10% had fed their infants formula only. The mean (SD) duration of breastfeeding was 6.3 (4.5) months. Thirteen percent of the mothers strongly agreed or agreed with the restriction question. The mean (SD) score on the pressure to eat scale was 5.3 (3.7), and the range was 0 to 20. After adjusting for mothers’ preexisting concerns about their children’s future eating and weight status, as well as sociodemographic, economic, and anthropometric predictors of breastfeeding duration, we found that the longer the mothers breastfed, the less likely they were to restrict their children’s food intake at age 1 year. The adjusted odds ratio was 0.89 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.84–0.95) for each 1-month increment in breastfeeding duration. In addition, we found that compared with mothers who were exclusively formula feeding, mothers who were exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months of age had much lower odds of restricting their children’s food intake at 1 year (odds ratio: 0.27; 95% CI: 0.10–0.72). Preponderance of breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life and breastfeeding duration (β = −0.01 points on the 0–20 scale for each additional 1 month of breastfeeding [95% CI: −0.07 to 0.05]) were not related to mothers’ pressuring their children to eat more.
Mothers who fed their infants breast milk in early infancy and who breastfed for longer periods reported less restrictive behavior regarding child feeding at 1 year. Additional longitudinal studies should examine the extent to which any protective effect of breastfeeding on overweight is explained by decreased maternal feeding restriction.
PMCID: PMC1989686  PMID: 15492358
20.  Is parental coping associated with quality of life in juvenile idiopathic arthritis? 
Parents of children with a chronic condition such as juvenile arthritis must cope with greater demands than those living with a healthy child. They must adopt different behaviours in order to lessen the impact on the family structure. Parental coping refers to the parent's specific cognitive and behavioural efforts to reduce or manage a demand on the family system. The aims of this study were: to describe coping in a cohort of parents of children with JIA; to determine whether quality of life is associated with parental coping; to explore whether socio-demographic factors such as child's age, family socioeconomic status and family structure are associated with parental coping. One hundred eighty-two parents caring for a child with JIA completed a postal survey at three times over a one-year period, which included the Juvenile Arthritis Quality of Life Questionnaire (JAQQ), the Coping Health Inventory for Parents (CHIP) and questionnaires describing socio-demographic characteristics. Linear mixed models were employed to analyse the association between the child's quality of life and parental coping. Mean total QoL scores (JAQQ) showed that children experienced difficulty in completing specified activities at most just below 25% of the time and results fall off slightly following the 6 month time point. Mean parental coping scores for the CHIP subscales at baseline were 38.4 ± 9.0, 33.4 ± 11.6, 16.5 ± 6.1, for Maintaining Family Integration (maximum score 57), Maintaining Social Support (maximum score 54) and Understanding the Medical Situation (maximum score 24), respectively. Understanding the Medical Situation was deemed most useful. The child's QoL was associated with parental coping. Parents of children with greater psychosocial dysfunction used more coping behaviours related to Understanding the Medical Situation (β coefficient, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.01, 1.45). These findings underscore the importance of helping parents of children with JIA better understand their child's medical situation.
PMCID: PMC2662836  PMID: 19284585
21.  Maternal Employment and Parent-Child Relationships in Single-Parent Families of Low-Birth-Weight Preschoolers 
Nursing research  1998;47(2):114-121.
The influence of premature birth of an infant in female-headed, single-parent families together or in conjunction with family environment factors, such as employment of the mother, on the mother-premature child relationship has not been considered in past studies.
To explore differences in parent-child and family relationships for employed and nonemployed single mothers of low–birth-weight (LBW) and full-term preschool children and to describe the relationships of the mothers employment status, employment history, and employment attitude-behavior consistency to parent-child and family relationships.
Single mothers with LBW (n = 60) and full-term (n = 61) preschool children provided data on their employment situation, the Parenting Stress Index, the Feetham Family Functioning Survey, and the Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment.
Employed mothers had more positive perceptions and provided more enriching home environments for their children. Greater attitude-behavior consistency was associated with more positive perceptions of the parental role.
Thus, in single-parent families, employment and consistency are positive influences on the mother-child relationship.
PMCID: PMC2792580  PMID: 9536195
maternal-child; low-birth-weight infants; single-parent families; maternal employment
22.  Parental perceptions of weight status of their children 
ARYA Atherosclerosis  2013;9(1):61-69.
Understanding the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of parents is important for planning appropriately to control their children’s weight. We aimed to study these variables in parents of normal, underweight, overweight, and obese children.
This cross-sectional study targeted the parents of normal, underweight, overweight, and obese children, who were selected using multistage random sampling method. The parents’ knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors about the weight status of their children, weight management, obesity, diet, lifestyle, and related psychosocial factors were evaluated using a validated questionnaire. The questionnaire, which had been validated, consisted of 12 demographic, 8 knowledge, 19 attitude and beliefs, and 25 behavior questions. Mean knowledge, attitude and beliefs, and behavior scores were compared across three subgroups of parents. Student’s independent t-test, ANOVA, and Kruskal-Wallis test were used to study the correlation between different demographic and socioeconomic factors, and the studied variables.
90% of parents were aware that obesity is a disease, and 92% knew that eating too much fast food would lead to obesity in children. Only 5% assumed that obese children are healthier than non-obese children. The mean scores of the three subgroups showed no significant difference in knowledge, attitude and beliefs, and behavior. Families with fathers, whose education level was higher than high school diploma, rated their children’s weight status as overweight or obese significantly less than families with fathers, whose education level was high school diploma or lower (8.5% vs. 16.5%, respectively, P = 0.014). Only 12% of parents tried to help their children lose weight at least once, and only 6% arranged sport activities for the family members. In 57% and 41% of families, the child, respectively, decided how much time was enough to watch TV, and how much chocolates and sweets to eat. 46% of children watched TV for more than 2 hours/day, and 49% of children watched TV while eating meals. The mean total score of boys’ parents was significantly lower than that of girls’ parents (P < 0.05). Families with low income, with no medical insurance, or not owning a house thought that the cost of registration in sport activities for children was too high (P < 0.03).
Some parents unreasonably rated the weight status of their children as overweight/obese. It is suggested that further studies be carried out to evaluate and improve parents’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding their children’s weight.
PMCID: PMC3653261  PMID: 23696761
Children; Obesity; Overweight; Knowledge; Attitude; Belief; Behavior
23.  Externalizing Behaviors among Children of HIV Seropositive Former and Current Drug Users: Parent Support Network Factors as Social Ecological Risks 
Journal of Urban Health   2007;85(1):62-76.
Children affected by their parents’ dual drug use and HIV/AIDS face considerable challenges to their psychosocial development, including parent dysfunction and foster care placement. While HIV/AIDS may increase parents’ mobilization of social support, their drug use may restrict who is available to help them, with potential implications to the adjustment of their children with whom they remain in contact. This study sought to identify dually affected children’s living situations, and parent and parent’s support network factors as correlates of children’s externalizing problem behaviors. An urban community sample of 462 HIV seropositive, current or former drug-using parents were queried about their children aged 5–15 years old. One hundred ninety-four children were reported by 119 parents. The outcome was children’s externalizing behaviors of ever having been suspended or expelled from school, criminal-justice system involvement, or illicit drug or heavy alcohol use. Independent variables included kin and drug users in parent’s support network. Generalized estimating equations were used to adjust for the potential correlation of children of the same parent. Among parents, 63% were mothers, 57% current opioid or cocaine users, 85% were African American, 35% had AIDS or CD <200, and 53% had high depressive symptoms (CES-D ≥ 16); median age was 38. Among children, median age was 12; 23% lived with the nominating parent, 65% with other family, and 11% in non-kin foster care. While only 34% of parents reported child custody, 43% reported daily contact with their child, and 90% reported high emotional closeness. Parents reported externalizing behaviors among 32% of the children. Logistic regression indicated that externalizing behavior was positively associated with parent’s physical limitations and proportion of illicit drug users in parent’s support network. A significant interaction was found indicating that the effect of parent’s support network-level drug use was greater for children living with versus not living with the parent. The model adjusted for parent’s current drug use and depressive symptoms, which were not significant. Results indicate that while only a minority of these dually affected children lived with the parent, the parents’ physical limitations and embeddedness in drug using support networks, particularly if living with their children, was associated with the children’s maladjustment. It is plausible that these factors interfere with parenting, expose the children to conflict or adverse social influences, or obligate children to assume caregiving for their parent. While dually affected children’s contact with their parents may have important benefits, results suggest it presents ongoing needs for intervention with the children, their parents, and caregivers.
PMCID: PMC2430131  PMID: 18004664
Parental illicit drug use; HIV/AIDS affected children; Child psychosocial functioning; Externalizing behaviors; Social support networks; Informal caregiving; Foster care
24.  The Association between Parental Perception of Neighborhood Safety and Asthma Diagnosis in Ethnic Minority Urban Children 
Low-income populations, minorities, and children living in inner cities have high rates of asthma. Recent studies have emphasized the role of psychosocial stress in development of asthma. Residence in unsafe neighborhoods is one potential source of increased stress. The study objective was to examine the association between parental perception of neighborhood safety and asthma diagnosis among inner city, minority children. Cross-sectional data from a community-based study of 6–8-year-old New York City children were used. Asthma was defined as parental report of physician-diagnosed asthma and at least one asthma-related symptom. Parental perceptions of neighborhood safety were assessed with a questionnaire. Associations between perceived neighborhood safety and asthma were examined using chi-squared tests. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were then performed. Five hundred four children were included with 79% female, 26.5% non-Hispanic Black, and 73.5% Hispanic. Asthma was present in 23.8% of children. There was an inverse association between feeling safe walking in the neighborhood and asthma with 45.7% of parents of asthmatic children reporting they felt safe compared to 60.9% of parents of non-asthmatic children (p = 0.006). Fewer parents of asthmatic children than of non-asthmatic children reported that their neighborhood was safe from crime (21.7% versus 33.9%, p = 0.018). In multivariate analyses adjusting for race/ethnicity, age, gender, socioeconomic status, number of smokers in the home and breastfeeding history, parents reporting feeling unsafe walking in the neighborhood were more likely to have a child diagnosed with asthma (OR = 1.89, 95%CI 1.13–3.14). Psychosocial stressors such as living in unsafe neighborhoods may be associated with asthma diagnosis in urban ethnic minority children. Addressing the increased asthma burden in certain communities may require interventions to decrease urban stressors.
PMCID: PMC3462829  PMID: 22669642
Asthma; Neighborhood; Urban; Safety; Children
25.  Oral Health Behavior of Parents as a Predictor of Oral Health Status of Their Children 
ISRN Dentistry  2013;2013:741783.
Introduction. It is widely acknowledged that the behavior of parents affects their children's health. This study aimed to evaluate the relationship between oral health behavior of parents and oral health status and behavior of their children in a sample of preschool children in Iran. Method and Material. A random sample of over-five-year-old preschool children and their parents were enrolled in the study. Selection of schools was by clustering method. Parents were asked to fill a piloted questionnaire which included demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status, oral health behaviors of children and their parents. Oral health status of children was examined. The parent and their children oral health relationship were tested using regression and correlation analysis. Results. About 222 parents and children participated in the study. There was a significant relationship between history of having dental problems in parents and dmft index in their children (P = 0.01). There was a significant relationship between parental frequency of tooth brushing and child frequency of tooth brushing (P = 0.05); however, there was no significant relationship between parental frequency of dental visits and those of their children (P = 0.1). Conclusion. The study concluded that some important health behaviors in parents, such as tooth brushing habits are important determinants of these behaviors in their young children. So promoting parent knowledge and attitude could affect their children oral health behavior and status.
PMCID: PMC3664493  PMID: 23738088

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