Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Shanta Dube

Second Advisor

Dr. Matt Hayat

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Mental illness is a major public health problem, and has been observed as early as infancy and persists throughout childhood into adulthood. Mental illness among children can severely impair a development, academic achievement, and the ability to live a productive life. Emotional dysregulation among parents may be a risk factor for mental illness among their children. The aim of this study was to evaluate aspects of poor emotional health of parents and mental health problems among children, aged 6-17 years old in the state of Georgia and nationally.

METHODS: Data on 66,920 children between the ages of 6-17 years from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) were utilized. Poor emotional health in parents was defined as self-reported health status and stress levels. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and substance abuse exposure were reported by parents, who served as proxy respondents for their children. Children’s mental health problems were defined as parents reporting that their child had depression, behavioral/conduct problems, and anxiety. State level weighted estimates of the prevalence of mental health problems among children from Georgia were compared to national estimates from the NSCH. Multiple logistic regression models were used to determine the weighted adjusted odds ratio (AOR) for the association between parents’ emotional health status with select mental disorders in children (using alpha level =0.05).

RESULTS: Estimates of mental health conditions of depression, anxiety, and behavioral problems among children 6 to 17 years in Georgia were 5.2%( 95% CI: 3.0-7.4) for males and 6.5 %( 95% CI: 3.5-9.5) for females; national estimates among children were (8.5%, 95% CI: 7.9-9.2) for males and 6.1% (95% CI: 5.5-6.7) for females. Results from the multiple logistic regression indicated that parents’ emotional dysfunction was significantly associated with mental health problems among children at the state and national levels. AORs at the state level for mental health conditions in children were 2.5 (95% CII: 0.6-10.1) for fathers who reported poor overall health and 0.2 (95% CI: 0.1-1.6) mothers who reported their poor overall health. At the national level there was an increased AOR for mental health conditions in children with reports of poor overall health from their mothers (AOR: 4.72 95% CI: 3.6-6.2) and fathers (AOR: 3.8 95% CII: 2.9-4.9). Parental stress also increased the likelihood of mental health problems among children at the states level, (AOR: 4.7 95% CII: 1.5-14.1); acknowledgment of substance abuse (AOR: 3.795% CII: 1.4-9.8); and reports of adverse childhood experiences (AOR: 1.8 95% CI 0.7-4.5). Similar findings were observed at the national level.

CONCLUSION: Given the results of this study, parental emotional health appears to be a factor that is strongly associated with mental health problems among children. Understanding that parental emotional health is a predictor of mental health problems in children can inform current parenting interventions and increase awareness of the need for family mental health services.

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