Emotional and behavioural problems in subgroups of children with chronic illness: results from a large-scale population study

Child Care Health Dev. 2009 Jul;35(4):527-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2009.00967.x. Epub 2009 Mar 23.


Background: Children with chronic illness are known to have an increased risk of emotional and behavioural problems. In the present population-based study children with asthma, neurological disorders and other chronic illnesses were compared with children without chronic illnesses to assess differences in psychological presentation across illness groups.

Methods: A total of 537 children with parent-reported chronic illness in the Bergen Child Study were categorized into three groups: asthma, neurological disorders and other chronic illnesses. Emotional and behavioural problems were assessed by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.

Results: All three illness groups had an increased rate of emotional and behavioural problems, as well as increased probability of a psychiatric disorder compared with children without a chronic illness. Most children with asthma and other chronic illnesses did not have emotional and behavioural problems, and effect sizes were small in both groups. In children with neurological disorders the effect sizes ranged from moderate to large, with emotional problems, inattention hyperactivity and peer problems being the most frequent problems.

Conclusions: The increased rate of emotional and behavioural problems in children with chronic illness, especially neurological disorders, emphasizes the importance of early detection of mental health problems in these children.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mood Disorders / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors