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J Pediatr. 2000 Jun;136(6):809-17.

The mother-child interaction and clinical judgment during acute pediatric illnesses.

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Department of Pediatrics and the Yale Child Study Center, Yale University, School of Medicine, and Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, New Haven, CT 06520-8064, USA.



For acutely ill children living in less than optimal environments, mothers and pediatricians may have a heightened perception of illness severity, a lower specificity of clinical judgments, and a tendency to over-utilize resources. We examined the mother-child interaction in order to understand the relation of less optimal environments to clinical judgment and resource use.


At the 2-week and 6-, 15-, and 24-month well child visits of 316 children, the mother-well child interaction was assessed by using the Biringen's Emotional Availability Scales (EAS). Data were gathered regarding maternal depression and sense of competence, infant temperament, maternal social support, life events, the home environment, and demographics. At ill visits, the mother-ill child interaction was assessed by using the EAS, and mothers and pediatricians independently assessed illness severity using the Acute Illness Observation Scales. Resource use during the illness was evaluated.


One thousand nine hundred eight-three acute illnesses were assessed. A less optimal mother-child interaction was significantly (P <.05 for all comparisons) associated with poorer reliability of mothers' judgments, lower specificity of mothers' judgments (71% vs 85%) and pediatricians' judgments (92% vs 97%), and greater use of resources (eg, for hospitalizations, 2.6% of visits vs 0.7%). Adverse maternal, infant, and demographic characteristics were associated with a less optimal mother-well child (r = 0.68) and mother-ill child (r = 0.80) interaction, a heightened perception of illness severity, and greater resource use.


Less optimal environments adversely affect the mother-child interaction; a poor mother-child interaction is correlated with low specificity of clinical judgment and over-utilization of resources.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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