New paper: Single-parenthood and health conditions among children receiving public assistance in Japan: a cohort study

We published a paper from BMC Pediatrics.

Nishioka D, Saito J, Ueno K, Kondo N. Single-parenthood and health conditions among children receiving public assistance in Japan: a cohort study. BMC Pediatr. 2021 May 3;21(1):214. doi: 10.1186/s12887-021-02682-4. PMID: 33941113.


Background: Children’s healthy development is important. While governmental public assistance benefits financially troubled families, it cannot compensate for a lack of social support. Single-parenthood is a health risk factor for children owing to low-income-associated food insecurity and stress. No study has investigated the association between single-parenthood and health status in children from families receiving public assistance. This study aimed to examine the association between single-parent households and children’s health among public assistance recipients in Japan by using linkage data of two municipal public assistance databases and administrative medical assistance data.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study. Public assistance for households below the poverty line ensures income security and medical care. The study population included all children aged 15 or younger availing public assistance in January 2016. We extracted recipients’ sociodemographic factors from January 2016 and identified the incidence of childhood diseases’ diagnosis until December 2016 as the outcome, including 1) acute upper respiratory infections; 2) influenza and pneumonia; 3) injuries, including fractures; 4) intestinal infectious diseases; 5) conjunctivitis; 6) asthma; 7) allergic rhinitis; 8) dermatitis and eczema, including atopic dermatitis; and 9) diseases of the oral cavities, salivary glands, and jaws, such as tooth decay or dental caries.

Results: Among the 573 children, 383 (66.8%) lived in single-parent households. A multivariable Poisson regression, with a robust standard error estimator, showed that single-parenthood is associated with a higher prevalence of asthma (incidence ratio [IR] = 1.62; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.16-2.26), allergic rhinitis (IR = 1.41; 95% CI, 1.07-1.86), dermatitis and eczema (IR = 1.81; 95% CI, 1.21-2.70), and dental diseases (IR = 1.79; 95% CI, 1.33-2.42) compared to non-single parent households, whereas little association was found between single-parenthood and children’s acute health conditions.

Conclusions: Among public assistance recipients, living in single-parent households may be a risk factor for children’s chronic diseases. The Japanese public assistance system should provide additional social care for single-parent households. Further investigations are necessary using more detailed longitudinal data, including environmental factors, the severity of children’s health conditions, contents of medical treatments, and broader socioeconomic factors.

Keywords: Chronic health conditions; Japan; Poverty; Public assistance; Single-parenthood.