Disparities in Provider Elicitation of Parents' Developmental Concerns for US Children

A parent’s ethnicity affects the likelihood that a provider will ask them to share concerns about their child’s development.

This study examined why health care providers might be less likely to have informative discussions with parents of certain ethnicities. A secondary focus of the study was the “medical home” and its elements most closely linked to developmental discussions.

The data for this study came from telephone interviews with parents of children five years and younger. The authors focused on parental reports about their providers’ level of engagement regarding developmental issues. During the interviews (conducted in 2008 and 2009) researchers ascertained whether, during the previous year, parents had been asked to share concerns about their children’s learning, development or behavior. Pediatric experiences can vary based on certain variables, including children’s demographic data, mother’s educational level, family income and poverty status, and presence of a “medical home”; the study factored such variables into its analyses.

Key Findings:

  • The rates of provider elicitation of developmental concerns were 55 percent for White, 41 percent for African-American; and 44 percent for English-speaking Latino parents.
  • Compared with mother’s lacking a high-school education, providers were 50 percent more likely to have elicited developmental concerns from mothers who had attended at least some college.

Health care providers who wish to monitor early childhood development must stay abreast of parents’ concerns. This study analyzed data from telephone interviews with an ethnically diverse sample of parents of young children. The authors present new quantitative evidence that providers are less likely to engage parents of certain ethnicities about the early development of their children.