European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 26, Issue 9, pp 1105–1117 | Cite as

Associations between social vulnerabilities and psychosocial problems in European children. Results from the IDEFICS study

  • Isabel IguacelEmail author
  • Nathalie Michels
  • Juan M. Fernández-Alvira
  • Karin Bammann
  • Stefaan De Henauw
  • Regina Felső
  • Wencke Gwozdz
  • Monica Hunsberger
  • Lucia Reisch
  • Paola Russo
  • Michael Tornaritis
  • Barbara Franziska Thumann
  • Toomas Veidebaum
  • Claudia Börnhorst
  • Luis A. Moreno
  • On behalf of the IDEFICS consortium
Original Contribution


The effect of socioeconomic inequalities on children’s mental health remains unclear. This study aims to explore the cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between social vulnerabilities and psychosocial problems, and the association between accumulation of vulnerabilities and psychosocial problems. 5987 children aged 2–9 years from eight European countries were assessed at baseline and 2-year follow-up. Two different instruments were employed to assess children’s psychosocial problems: the KINDL (Questionnaire for Measuring Health-Related Quality of Life in Children and Adolescents) was used to evaluate children’s well-being and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was used to evaluate children’s internalising problems. Vulnerable groups were defined as follows: children whose parents had minimal social networks, children from non-traditional families, children of migrant origin or children with unemployed parents. Logistic mixed-effects models were used to assess the associations between social vulnerabilities and psychosocial problems. After adjusting for classical socioeconomic and lifestyle indicators, children whose parents had minimal social networks were at greater risk of presenting internalising problems at baseline and follow-up (OR 1.53, 99% CI 1.11–2.11). The highest risk for psychosocial problems was found in children whose status changed from traditional families at T0 to non-traditional families at T1 (OR 1.60, 99% CI 1.07–2.39) and whose parents had minimal social networks at both time points (OR 1.97, 99% CI 1.26–3.08). Children with one or more vulnerabilities accumulated were at a higher risk of developing psychosocial problems at baseline and follow-up. Therefore, policy makers should implement measures to strengthen the social support for parents with a minimal social network.


Vulnerable groups Psychosocial problems Well-being Internalising problems Inequalities Children 



This work has been done as part of the IDEFICS Study ( The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the European Community within the Sixth RTD Framework Programme Contract No. 016181 (FOOD). I. I has been financed by the FPU (grant reference FPU014/00922) Predoctoral Programs (Spanish Ministry of Education and Science). We thank the IDEFICS children and their parents who generously volunteered and participated in this project.

Author contributions

The authors’ contributions were as follows: II carried out the statistical analysis and drafted the manuscript along with NMCB designed the statistical analyses. KB, JMF-A, WG, RF, BT, and PR developed the measurement instruments; LR, SDH, MH, LAM, and TV supervised the national data collection authors read and critically reviewed the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

787_2017_998_MOESM1_ESM.docx (45 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 44 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabel Iguacel
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Nathalie Michels
    • 4
  • Juan M. Fernández-Alvira
    • 1
    • 5
  • Karin Bammann
    • 6
    • 7
  • Stefaan De Henauw
    • 4
  • Regina Felső
    • 8
  • Wencke Gwozdz
    • 9
  • Monica Hunsberger
    • 10
  • Lucia Reisch
    • 9
  • Paola Russo
    • 11
  • Michael Tornaritis
    • 12
  • Barbara Franziska Thumann
    • 7
  • Toomas Veidebaum
    • 13
  • Claudia Börnhorst
    • 7
  • Luis A. Moreno
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 14
  • On behalf of the IDEFICS consortium
  1. 1.GENUD (Growth, Exercise, NUtrition and Development) Research Group, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of ZaragozaSaragossaSpain
  2. 2.Instituto Agroalimentario de Aragón (IA2)SaragossaSpain
  3. 3.Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria Aragón (IIS Aragón)SaragossaSpain
  4. 4.Department of Public HealthGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  5. 5.Fundación Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC)MadridSpain
  6. 6.Institute for Public Health and Nursing Sciences (IPP)University of BremenBremenGermany
  7. 7.Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology, BIPSBremenGermany
  8. 8.Department of PaediatricsUniversity of PécsPécsHungary
  9. 9.Copenhagen Business SchoolCopenhagenDenmark
  10. 10.Section for Epidemiology and Social Medicine (EPSO)Sahlgrenska Academy, University of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  11. 11.Institute of Food SciencesNational Research CouncilAvellinoItaly
  12. 12.Research and Education Institute of Child HealthStrovolosCyprus
  13. 13.Department of Chronic DiseasesNational Institute for Health DevelopmentTallinnEstonia
  14. 14.Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición (CIBERObn)SaragossaSpain

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