Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 135–152 | Cite as

Developmental screening scores among preschoolaged children: The roles of poverty and child health

Original Article



To investigate, using a nationally representative sample of preschool-aged children, the relationship among poverty history, child health, and risk of an abnormal developmental screening score.


Data were derived from the 1988 National Maternal and Infant Health Survey and 1991 Longitudinal Follow-up. Family income in the child’s prenatal year and at 2 years old defined a poverty history for each child. Multivariate logistic regression was used to estimate the effects of poverty history on risk of an abnormal screening score or delays in large-motor, personal-social, or language subscales.


Poor and near-poor children were 1.6 to 2.0 times as likely as nonpoor children to be classified as abnormal, even when maternal and household characteristics and the child’s health history were taken into account. Preterm birth, chronic illness, dearth of reading materials in the home, and maternal depression were also associated with elevated risks of abnormal scores.


Poverty is the largest single predictor of an abnormal developmental screening score. The implications of inadequate medical care among poor children for the interpretation of individual screening scores and for amelioration of problems are also discussed.

Key words

Children, Socioeconomic factors Child development Chronic illness Preterm birth Longitudinal studies 


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Copyright information

© New York Academy of Medicine 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging ResearchRutgers UniversityNew Brunswick

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