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Household Health-Related Social Needs in Newborns and Infant Behavioral Functioning at 6 Months

JAMA Pediatr. 2023 Dec 26. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2023.5721. Online ahead of print.


IMPORTANCE: Dysfunctional patterns of behavior during infancy can predict the emergence of mental health disorders later in childhood. The Baby Pediatric Symptom Checklist (BPSC) can identify indicators of behavioral disorders among children aged 0 to 18 months. Understanding the association of early health-related social needs (HRSNs) with poor infant behavioral functioning can inform interventions to promote early childhood mental well-being.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the association between household HRSNs in the first 4 months of life and BPSC results at 6 months.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This was a retrospective cohort analysis of longitudinal electronic health record data. Covariates were selected based on the biopsychosocial ecological model. Logistic regression analyses examined the association of HRSN domains and the number of HRSNs with the 6-month BPSC outcomes. Participants were recruited from 6 primary care clinics within 1 health system. Children aged 5 to 8 months who were evaluated for 6-month well-child visits between March 30, 2021, and June 30, 2022, were included in the study.

EXPOSURE: Responses to the first HRSN screening tool that a caregiver completed for infants between 0 and 4 months of age. HRSN domains were examined individually and as the number of positive HRSNs.

MAIN OUTCOME AND MEASURES: BPSC screen identified for clinical review due to 1 or more elevated subscales (inflexibility, irritability, and difficulty with routines) at 6 months.

RESULTS: A total of 1541 children (mean [SD] age, 6.1 [0.5] months; 775 female [50.3%]) were included in the study. A total of 405 children (26.3%) had a BPSC screen identified for clinical review, and 328 caregivers (21.3%) reported at least 1 HRSN. Food insecurity (174 [11.3%]) and benefits issues (169 [11.0%]) were the most frequently reported HRSN. Children in households with food insecurity had statistically significant higher odds of inflexibility (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.73; 95% CI, 1.14-2.63), difficulty with routines (aOR, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.05-2.57), and irritability (aOR, 1.86; 95% CI, 1.13-3.08) than children in households without food insecurity. Children in households with benefits issues had statistically significant higher odds of difficulty with routines (aOR, 1.70; 95% CI, 1.10-2.65) and irritability (aOR, 1.70; 95% CI, 1.03-2.82). Children in households with 2 or more HRSNs had consistently higher odds of having a BPSC screen identified for clinical review (aOR, 2.16; 95% CI, 1.38-3.39) compared with children with no HRSNs.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Results of this cohort study suggest that household food insecurity, benefits issues, and the number of HRSNs were significantly associated with a BPSC screen identified for clinical review at 6 months of age. These findings highlight the urgency of intervening on HRSNs in the newborn period to prevent adverse infant behavioral outcomes.

PMID:38147349 | DOI:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2023.5721

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