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Pediatrics. 1994 Mar;93(3):399-403.

Prevalence and health impact of developmental disabilities in US children.

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  • 1Developmental Disabilities Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA.



Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey--Child Health Supplement were used to examine the prevalence of selected developmental disabilities and their impact among children ages 0 through 17 years.


The following conditions, identified through a structured in-person interview with a parent or other adult household member, were examined: deafness or trouble hearing, blindness, epilepsy or seizures, stammering and stuttering, other speech defects, cerebral palsy, delay in growth or development, learning disabilities, and emotional or behavioral problems. The impact was defined by measures of perceived health status, school performance and attendance, and health care utilization.


Seventeen percent of children in the United States were reported to have ever had a developmental disability. The prevalence of the individual disabilities ranged from 0.2% for cerebral palsy to 6.5% for learning disabilities. These conditions taken together had a substantial impact on the health and educational functioning of affected children: 1.5 times more doctor visits, 3.5 times more hospital-days, twice the number of school-days lost, and a 2.5-fold increase in the likelihood of repeating a grade in school compared with children without these conditions. The extent of this impact was much greater among children with multiple disabilities or with either cerebral palsy, epilepsy or seizures, delays in growth and development, or emotional or behavioral problems. The impact on school performance was most pronounced for children reported to have learning disabilities.


Future research efforts should be focused on ways to reduce the impact of these developmental disabilities on quality of life.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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