Stressful life events, psychosocial health and general health in preschool children before age 4

Jie Luo, Amy van Grieken*, Shuang Zhou, Yuan Fang, Hein Raat

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: The impact of stressful life events (SLEs) in early childhood is often ignored. We aimed to examine longitudinal associations between SLEs and psychosocial and general health in preschool children. Methods: Twelve SLEs occurring before the age of 24 months were assessed and categorized by frequency (no events, 1–2 SLEs, and > 2 SLEs) and overall tension (no events, low, and high) (n = 1431). Psychosocial and general health were measured three times at the age of 24, 36 and 45 months. The associations were examined by logistic regression models using generalized estimating equations to handle repeated measurements. Results: Half (48.4%) of the families experienced SLEs, and 23.8% perceived high-tension SLEs before the children were aged 24 months. Gender differences were observed in the association between SLEs and psychosocial health. Compared to girls without SLEs, girls who experienced > 2 SLEs [OR = 3.31, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.05–5.35] or high-tension SLEs (OR = 3.01, 95% CI 2.07–4.39) had higher odds of psychosocial problems from 24 to 45 months. The odds ratios in boys were 2.10 (95% CI 1.36–3.24) and 1.47 (95% CI 1.06–2.03), respectively. Moreover, only girls’ risk of psychosocial problems increased after experiencing 1–2 SLEs (OR = 2.15, 95% CI 1.54–3.00) or low-tension SLEs (OR = 1.90, 95% CI 1.31–2.74). Regarding general health, children who experienced > 2 SLEs (OR = 1.96, 95% CI 1.21–3.18) and high-tension SLEs (OR = 1.60, 95% CI 1.12–2.28) had higher odds of poor general health from 24 to 45 months. Conclusions: The findings emphasized that young children’s psychosocial and general health can be impacted by experiencing SLEs in early childhood. Attention and adequate support for families experiencing SLEs are needed to minimize the potential negative effect of SLEs on child health, particularly in girls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-250
Number of pages8
JournalWorld Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number3
Early online date17 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by ZonMw (grant number 729301001). Jie Luo was funded by the Chinese Government Scholarship (CN) (grant number 201806170061).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


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