Survey: Parents most concerned
about children's emotional health
By Brigid Gaffikin, Bay City News Service
January 12, 2007
A new survey by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's
Health suggests Bay Area parents are concerned about their children's
emotional health above other potential worries such as weight,
leisure activities or exposure to drugs or alcohol.
Interviews with almost 1,800 parents of children up to age 17
in six Bay Area counties - Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco,
San Mateo and Santa Clara -- were conducted in English and Spanish
in the summer of 2006.
Researchers asked parents about their perceptions of their children's
emotional, physical and behavioral health. The survey also asked
parents about their children's experiences at school and about
environmental factors such as media and family income.
While almost three-quarters of parents interviewed rated their
children's physical health as excellent, just over half of the
parents, or 53 percent, said the same of their emotional health.
Parents of teens were even less upbeat, with only 42 percent of
parents of those aged 14 to 17 describing their teens' emotional
health in the same terms.
Perceptions of emotional health varied according to household
income and race or ethnicity. Some 42 percent of parents in homes
with an annual household income of less than $50,000 said their
child's overall emotional health was excellent, a drop of more
than 20 percentage points compared to parents in households with
annual incomes of more than $100,000, according to the survey.
Household income difference played out across the range of questions
about emotional health, from parents' perceptions of their children's
ability to get along with their peers to impressions of children's
ability "to see life in a positive way.'' Parents with the
highest incomes were generally the most positive.
Stress was a major concern for parents, who described children
as young as 3 to 5 years old as stressed. Overall, the older a
child, the more likely parents were to say he or she experienced
a "moderate" or "high" amount of stress.
Homework and schoolwork were pegged as two primary sources of
this anxiety, with 64 percent of parents saying schoolwork and
homework contributed "somewhat" or "very much"
to their children's stress levels.
Race and ethnicity also affected how parents saw their children's
emotional well-being. More white parents than Latino or Asian-American
parents, for example, said their child's overall emotional health
was excellent. Depression also factored into parents' anxieties,
with about a quarter of parents of teenagers saying they were
concerned about their child being depressed.
Significantly more Latino parents -- 31 percent -- shared that
concern no matter what the child's age. Parents in household with
larger annual incomes were less likely to express anxiety about
their children and depression.
Although the overwhelming majority of parents said they were
satisfied with their children's physical health, nearly a quarter
of all parents surveyed expressed some level of concern about
their child's weight.
In terms of physical health, income also correlated with weight
concerns, with 9 percent of parents with annual household incomes
above $100,000 saying their children were overweight, compared
with 19 percent of respondents whose incomes were below $50,000.
Latino parents also were less likely than white parents to say
their children's overall physical health was excellent and to
give their health care the highest marks.
And while the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that
children see a dentist by age 1, some 81 percent of parents with
kids under 3 said their children had never seen a dentist. Around
three-quarters of children over 3 had visited a dentist in the
six months prior to the survey.
A February 2006 study by the Dental Health Foundation said that
almost two-thirds of California's children suffer dental decay
by third grade and as many as 750,000 elementary school children
in California may have untreated dental problems. Untreated dental
disease can lead to oral health disorders that can be severe enough
to cause children to lose sleep and the ability to concentrate
and to skip school.
According to the Packard Foundation survey, 17 percent of parents
don't have dental health insurance for their children, including
25 percent of Latino parents.
The survey also found that some 14 percent of children living
in households with an annual income of less than $50,000 did not
have medical health insurance.
Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication,
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