One in four children under the age of 5 is at risk of a
developmental delay and could benefit from
early intervention, yet black and Hispanic children are much less likely to be identified as needing services than white children.
A qualitative study, "Beliefs Regarding Development and Early Intervention Among Low-Income African American and Hispanic Mothers" published in the November 2017 issue of
Pediatrics (published online Oct. 16), states that fewer than 25% of children eligible for early intervention services use them.
The authors interviewed 22 mothers to explore the ways in which maternal health beliefs influenced them in seeking help for developmental delays, a condition in which children do not achieve timely motor, language, cognitive, social, behavioral or adaptive skills.
The analysis revealed five major themes in how health beliefs shaped the mother's decisions:
Observing other children and making comparisons
Perceiving that their child might be delayed but not being concerned
Relying on social networks rather than the pediatrician in seeking help
Finding it hard to prioritize early intervention because of social or financial stressors
Receiving limited or conflicting information
Black and Hispanic mothers often reported feeling pressured into using services rather than perceiving services as beneficial.
Editor's note: The solicited commentary, "Health Beliefs and the Developmental Treatment Cascade," accompanies this study.
Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org: