Children of chronically ill parents: Relationship between parental multiple sclerosis and childhood developmental health

Mult Scler. 2016 Oct;22(11):1452-1462. doi: 10.1177/1352458515621624. Epub 2015 Dec 18.


Background: Exposure to parental chronic illness is associated with adverse developmental outcomes.

Objective: We examined the association between parental multiple sclerosis (MS) and parental MS-related clinical factors on developmental health.

Methods: We conducted a population-based cohort study in British Columbia, Canada, using linked health databases. The outcome was childhood development at 5 years of age, expressed as vulnerability on the Early Development Instrument (EDI). Adjusted odds ratios (aORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using conditional logistic regression.

Results: MS-affected parents (n = 783) were older, more likely to be English speakers, and had higher rates of mental health morbidity (39.6% vs 22.2%, p < 0.001) than unaffected parents (n = 2988). In the adjusted models, children of mothers with MS (aOR = 0.62, 95% CI = 0.44-0.87), but not children of the fathers with MS, had a lower risk of vulnerability on the social development domain of the EDI. However, mental health comorbidity (aOR = 1.62, 95% CI = 1.05-2.50) and physical comorbidity (aOR = 1.67, 95% CI = 1.05-2.64) among mothers with MS were associated with increased vulnerability on the EDI.

Conclusion: Maternal MS, but not paternal MS, was associated with lower rates of developmental vulnerability on the social development domain. However, mental and physical comorbidity among MS-affected mothers were associated with increased developmental vulnerability in children.

Keywords: Multiple sclerosis; anxiety; child development; cohort studies; depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • British Columbia
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child of Impaired Parents*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder
  • Fathers
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders
  • Mothers
  • Multiple Sclerosis*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Social Change*
  • Young Adult