Social Class and Child Health: Our Complexity Complex

  • Thomas A. GlassEmail author
Part of the National Symposium on Family Issues book series (NSFI)


Reichman and Teitler (Chap. 9) review the complex literature on social class and child health and find ample evidence of consistent associations, operating through multiple pathways that arise early in life and compound over the life course. They conclude, as do most such reviews, that the relationship between social class and child health is complex and that much is still unknown. This reflects what I describe as a complexity complex that impedes effective research and intervention. In this commentary, I make three main points: (1) we lack an adequate theory of social class gradients in children’s health as well as a coherent understanding of what a good theory is and how it can be used, (2) the perception of inscrutable complexity is partly a function of the lack of fit between social class as an explanatory concept and currently accepted ideas about what constitutes a cause, and (3) the failure to explain the social class clustering of health behaviors and risk factors is partly a function of our inability to account for the role of culture.


Social Class Allostatic Load Public Health Action Social Psychological Theory Causal Risk Factor 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EpidemiologyJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA

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