The findings are not due to demographic or socioeconomic factors, parental education, child-rearing experience or children’s health status, say authors Alex Chen, M.D., at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and José Escarce, M.D., at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The authors attribute the results to finite parental resources. “As there are more demands on a parent’s time and money each child may receive less,” said Chen. “Policies that provide support for working parents may enable them to take their children for care,” concludes the study.

The authors analysed data from a nationally representative survey on the use of medical care. The survey included 26,401 American youngsters under 18 living in two-parent families or single-mother families. There were not enough single-father families to include in the study.

The data indicate that children of single mothers receive less care than those in two-parent families; however, these differences can be explained by other family traits such as poverty and lack of health insurance.

In contrast, children in families with four or more other children make only about four-fifths as many visits to doctor’s offices or emergency rooms as otherwise similar single-parent families. The effect of a large family on a child’s prescription drug use rivaled the effect of being uninsured and was larger than that of poverty.

The presence of nonparental adults — such as grandparents or a single-mother’s boyfriend — is also linked to less health care for children in the household. More family leave days may enable working parents to take their children for needed care, suggest the authors. They also say that health care providers should also monitor children with many siblings and those in cohabiting households more closely.

MEDICA.de; Source: Health Behaviour News Service