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J Pediatr Rehabil Med. 2013;6(2):63-71. doi: 10.3233/PRM-130240.

Developmental, emotional and behavioral co-morbidities across the chronic health condition spectrum.

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Division of Developmental Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA 22901, USA.



Estimate the prevalence of specific developmental, emotional, and behavioral (DEB) problems across selected chronic health conditions; examine the relationship of chronic health conditions to functional activities and participation; determine the potential confounding effect of sociodemographic factors on the prevalence of DEB problems.


The 2007 National Survey of Children's Health, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, served as the primary data source for this study. A total of 91.642 interviews (66.6% response rate for identified households with children) were performed. Population-based estimates were obtained for variables of interest by assigning sampling weights to each child for whom an interview was completed.


Parents were two to 30 times more likely to report DEB problems, such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, depression, learning problems, and challenging behaviors, for children with chronic health conditions. These children had a greater number and range of difficulties with social interaction and school functioning as well as a lower rate of participation in community activities. Although highest rates of DEB problems were reported for those conditions involving the nervous or sensory systems, children with asthma, diabetes, and musculoskeletal conditions also had a higher rate of problems than children without the conditions. The higher prevalence of DEB problems remained after statistical adjustment for socio-demographic factors.


Children with a spectrum of chronic health conditions are at high risk for DEB problems that affect learning, behavior, and emotional well-being. As part of a comprehensive approach to the management of chronic health conditions, children should be screened for these problems and referred for appropriate further evaluation and remediation. Attention to these common co-morbidities will not only result in enhanced quality of life but will also promote better adherence to medical recommendations and, thereby, optimal disease control.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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