Quality of Life Research

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 203–211 | Cite as

The influence of parental education on child mental health in Spain

  • Michela Sonego
  • Alicia Llácer
  • Iñaki Galán
  • Fernando Simón



To analyze the association between parental education and offspring’s mental health in a nationally representative Spanish sample, and assess the contribution of other socioeconomic factors to the association.


We conducted a secondary analysis of data on 4- to 15-year-olds participating in the 2006 Spanish National Health Survey. Mental health was assessed using the parent-reported Strengths & Difficulties Questionnaire. Parents’ respective educational levels were summarized in a single variable. Univariate and multivariate analyses, controlling for family-, child- and parent-related characteristics, were used to study the association.


The final sample comprised 5,635 children. A strong association between parental education and parent-reported child mental health was observed among 4- to 11-year-olds, with odds ratios (ORs) increasing as parental educational level decreased. Where both parents had a sub-university level, maternal education showed a stronger association than did paternal education. Following adjustment for covariates, parental education continued to be the strongest risk factor for parent-reported child mental health problems, OR = 3.7 (95% CI 2.4–5.8) for the lowest educational level, but no association was found among 12- to 15-year-olds. Male sex, immigrant status, activity limitation, parent’s poor mental health, low social support, poor family function, single-parent families, low family income and social class were associated with parent-reported child mental health problems in both age groups.


Our results show that there is a strong association between parental education and parent-reported child mental health, and that this is indeed stronger than that for income and social class. Among adolescents, however, the effect of parental education would appear to be outweighed by other factors.


Children Adolescents Mental Health Parental education Spain 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michela Sonego
    • 1
  • Alicia Llácer
    • 2
  • Iñaki Galán
    • 3
  • Fernando Simón
    • 2
  1. 1.Field Epidemiology Training Program, National Centre for EpidemiologyCarlos III Institute of HealthMadridSpain
  2. 2.National Centre for EpidemiologyCarlos III Institute of Health, Consortium for Biomedical Research in Epidemiology & Public Health (CIBER en epidemiología y Salud Pública-CIBERESP)MadridSpain
  3. 3.National Centre for EpidemiologyCarlos III Institute of HealthMadridSpain

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