Single parent households and increased child asthma morbidity

J Asthma. 2014 Apr;51(3):260-6. doi: 10.3109/02770903.2013.873806. Epub 2014 Jan 9.


Objectives: To characterize whether single parent households are associated with pediatric asthma-related repeat healthcare utilization and to examine family-level psychosocial variables that may explain this relationship.

Methods: We analyzed a prospective cohort of 526 children aged 1-16 years hospitalized for asthma or bronchodilator-responsive wheezing whose caregivers self-reported their marital status. Those reporting being "single" were considered the at-risk category. The outcome was repeat asthma-related utilization (emergency room (ER) revisit or hospital readmission) within 12 months. We assessed, a priori, four psychosocial variables (household income, caregiver risk of psychological distress, ratio of in-home children to adults, and regular attendance at childcare or a secondary home).

Results: Among all children enrolled in the cohort, 40% returned to the ER or hospital for asthma within 12 months. Of all caregivers, 59% self-identified as single. Single status was significantly associated with each psychosocial variable. Children in households with lower incomes and higher ratios of children to adults were both more likely to return to the ER or hospital than children with higher incomes and lower ratios, respectively (each p < 0.05). Patients in single parent households were significantly more likely to reutilize than those in married parent households (OR 1.44, 95% CI 1.00-2.07, p < 0.05). When adjusted for income, the relationship between single parent households and reutilization became non-significant.

Conclusions: Children admitted for asthma from single parent households were more likely to have asthma-related reutilization within 12 months than children from homes with married parents. This was driven, in large part, by underlying differences in household income.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Sounds
  • Sex Factors
  • Single-Parent Family / psychology*
  • Single-Parent Family / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology