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Social & Economic Factors Associated with Developmental Disabilities

Children who grow up in environmental circumstances of social and economic disadvantage are more likely to have developmental disabilities.

Maternal Risk Factors:

  • Povert
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Mental illness
  • Substance abus
  • Living in communities where environmental hazards are plentiful and resources are limited

Prenatal & Perinatal Risk Factors:

  • Preterm birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Central nervous system abnormalities
  • Prolonged hospitalizations that can drain family resources and interfere with parent-infant bonding

Children in Poverty: Complex and Far-Reaching Risk Factors 

For many children, the environmental risks are compounded during their early years. Poverty remains one of the most complex and far-reaching risk factors, because it affects so many aspects of the life of a child.

In 2006, approximately 1 in 5 US children younger than 6 years and 16% of children ages 6 to 17 years lived in poverty. The rate for children of all ages living in single female-headed families was 42%. During that same year, approximately 17% of children (12.6 million) lived in households with food insecurity. Children who were impoverished were also more likely to have a blood lead level of 10 μg/dL or greater. Children living in poverty are 1.7 times more likely to be born at a low birth weight.

Cycle of Disadvantage: Difficult to Escape

Too often, children and their families are trapped in a cycle of disadvantage and disability that is difficult to escape unless interrupted by outside social forces or the extraordinary efforts of individuals and families.

Additional Information

Last Updated
11/21/2015
Source
Pediatric Environmental Health, 3rd Edition (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2011)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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