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J Pediatr. 2008 Sep;153(3):320-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2008.02.047. Epub 2008 Apr 23.

Physical and mental health in mothers of children with Down syndrome.

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  • 1Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia.



To identify the relationship between characteristics of the child with Down syndrome and the health of their mother.


Families with a child/young adult with Down syndrome (<25 years) provided information related to the health of the child, functioning and behavior, and the health and well-being of the mother (n = 250).


The mean physical health score of mothers was 50.2 (SD = 9.6). Factors associated with lower mean physical health scores were as follows: child having a current heart problem (P = .036), a higher body mass index (P = .006), and higher (poorer) scores on the Developmental Behavior Checklist. Better physical health scores were seen in mothers whose children required no help/supervision in learning new skills (P = .008) and domestic tasks (P = .014). The mean mental health score of mothers was 45.2 (SD = 10.6), significantly lower than the norm of 50 (P < .0001). Associated child factors included current ear problems (P = .079), muscle/bone problems (P = .004), >4 episodes of illness in past year (P = .016), and higher scores on the DBC (P < .0001).


The most important predictors of maternal health were children's behavioral difficulties, everyday functioning and current health status. Mothers of children with Down syndrome appear to experience poorer mental health and may require greater support and services to improve behavior management skills for their child and their own psychological well-being.

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