Parental Mental Illness, Attendance at Preventive Child Healthcare and Dental Caries in the Offspring: A Nation-wide Population-based Cohort Study

Kirstine Davidsen, Erik Christiansen, Dorte Haubek, Jette Asmussen, Anne Ranning, Anne Amalie Elgaard Thorup, Merete Nordentoft, Susanne Harder, Niels Bilenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: Severe mental illness (SMI) may interfere with parental caregiving practices and offspring development. Adhering to preventive well-child visits and maintaining good oral hygiene during early childhood requires parental involvement. Whether these activities are affected by parental SMI is unclear. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether children exposed to parental SMI are at increased risk of non-attendance to preventive well-child visits and vaccinations at age 0–5 years and of child dental caries experience at age 5 years. Furthermore, interactions between maternal psychiatric and sociodemographic variables in relation to an adverse child outcome were assessed. Methods: Data were obtained from national Danish health registers. All children born in Denmark between January 1997 and December 2010 were followed from birth until their 6th birthday. Results: 679,339 children were included in the study (51% male). Of these, 49,059 children (7.8%) had at least one parent with a lifetime SMI diagnosis. Children of parents with SMI had elevated odds of missing well-child visits and vaccinations (OR 1.41; 95% CI 1.39–1.44, p < 0.0001), and of child dental caries (OR 1.58; 95% CI 1.55–1.62, p < 0.0001). In the presence of maternal SMI, low socioeconomic classification and single-mother status added more to the elevated risk than specific maternal diagnosis or timing of last psychiatric contact. Conclusion: Parents with SMI are less compliant with preventive child healthcare activities than parents without SMI. This indicates a need for practical support to these families in order to prevent inequality in health among their offspring.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)583-592
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Child oral health
  • Offspring of parents with mental disorders
  • Prevention
  • Preventive child health care
  • Child of Impaired Parents
  • Humans
  • Parents
  • Child, Preschool
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Dental Caries/epidemiology
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Mental Disorders/epidemiology
  • Female
  • Child
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Cohort Studies


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