UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Parental psychosocial factors, unmet dental needs and preventive dental care in children and adolescents with special health care needs: A stress process model Gazzaz, Arwa Z.; Carpiano, Richard M.; Laronde, Denise; Aleksejuniene, Jolanta


Background Children and adolescents with special health care needs (SHCN) have higher unmet dental needs, but the potential mechanisms by which parental factors can influence dental care use have not been determined. Parenting a child with SHCN can present special demands that affect parents’ well-being and, in turn, their caregiving. Hence, the study's overall aim was to apply the stress process model to examine the role of parental psychosocial factors in the association between child SHCN and dental care. Specifically, the study tested hypotheses regarding how (a) children’s SHCN status is associated with child dental care (unmet dental needs and lack of preventive dental visits), both directly and indirectly via parental psychosocial factors (parenting stress, instrumental, and emotional social support) and (b) parental social support buffers the association between parenting stress and child dental care. Methods A secondary data analysis of the 2011–2012 US National Survey of Children’s Health was performed for 6- to 11-year-old children (n = 27,874) and 12- to 17-year-old adolescents (n = 31,328). Our age-stratified models estimated associations between child SHCN status and parental psychosocial factors with two child dental care outcomes: parent-reported unmet child dental needs and lack of preventive dental care. Results Parents of children with (vs without) SHCN reported higher unmet child dental needs, higher parenting stress, and lower social support (instrumental and emotional). Instrumental, but not emotional, parental support was associated with lower odds of their child unmet dental needs in both age groups. The association between parenting stress and child dental care outcomes was modified by parental social support. Conclusion Differences existed in child unmet dental needs based on SHCN status, even after adjusting for parental psychosocial factors. SHCN status was indirectly associated with unmet dental needs via parental instrumental support among adolescents, and parental instrumental support buffered the negative association between parenting stress and both child dental care outcomes. Hence, parental social support was an important determinant of child dental care and partially explained the dental care disparities in adolescents with SHCN.

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