Disparities in Familiarity With Developmental Disabilities Among Low-Income Parents

Acad Pediatr. 2018 Nov-Dec;18(8):944-951. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2018.06.011. Epub 2018 Jul 4.


Objective: Parent knowledge about developmental disabilities (DDs) may facilitate access to DD care; however, parents may vary in their knowledge and familiarity with common DDs. This study aimed to assess racial/ethnic and language differences in low-income families' familiarity, knowledge, and personal experience with DDs.

Methods: We conducted a child development survey among 539 low-income parents of young children attending visits at the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in 6 Oregon counties in 2015. Survey items assessed parent familiarity with early signs of DDs, self-reported knowledge about DDs, and personal experience with a friend or family member with a DD. Bivariable and multivariable analyses assessed differences in outcomes among non-Latino white (white), Latino English-proficient (Latino-EP), Latino limited-English-proficient (Latino-LEP), and non-Latino other race English-proficient (other race) parents.

Results: Overall, parent participants correctly identified 64.7% of early signs of DDs. White parents correctly identified the most early signs, even after adjustment for sociodemographic factors. Compared with white parents, Latino-LEP, Latino-EP, and other race parents were less likely to have heard of prevalent DDs, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism, and less likely to have a friend or family member with a DD.

Conclusions: Low-income Latino-LEP and other race parents have less familiarity or personal experience with DDs and are less aware of early signs of DDs compared to low-income white parents. Study findings suggest that interventions to reduce disparities in DD diagnosis and treatment should include increasing information transfer to parents in racial/ethnic and language minority communities.

Keywords: Children; Infants; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women; child development; developmental disabilities; health care disparities; health services accessibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cleft Lip
  • Cleft Palate
  • Developmental Disabilities*
  • Down Syndrome
  • Female
  • Food Assistance
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice / ethnology*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Language
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Oregon
  • Parents*
  • Poverty
  • Rett Syndrome
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • White People*
  • Young Adult