The Mental and Physical Health of Mothers of Children with Special Health Care Needs in the United States

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Maternal and child health journal


OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of poor mental and physical health among mothers of children with special health care needs (CSHCN) and to determine the association between maternal health and the child's number of special health care needs (SHCN) and severity of ability limitation.

METHODS: We used the combined 2016-2018 National Survey of Children's Health Dataset of 102,341 children ages 0-17 including 23,280 CSHCN. We used regression models to examine the associations of a child's number of SHCN and ability limitations with maternal health.

RESULTS: Twice as many mothers of CSHCN had poor mental and physical health compared to non-CSHCN (mental 10.3% vs. 4.0%, p < .001; physical 11.9% vs 5.0%, p < .001). In regression models, increased number of SHCN and severity of activity limitations were associated with significantly increased odds of poor maternal health.

CONCLUSIONS FOR PRACTICE: Mothers of CSHCN have worse health compared to mothers of non-CSHCN, especially those who experience social disadvantage and those with children with complex SHCN or severe ability limitations. Interventions to improve the health of these particularly vulnerable caregivers of CSHCN are warranted.

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ePub ahead of print