Associations Between Social Vulnerabilities and Psychosocial Problems in European Children: Results from the IDEFICS Study

Isabel Iguacel*, 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

*Corresponding author for this work

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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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1105-1117
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Vulnerable groups
  • Psychosocial problems
  • Well-being
  • Internalising problems
  • Inequalities
  • Children

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