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Differences in Febrile and Respiratory Illnesses in Minority Children: The Sociodemographic Context of Restrictive Parenting



To examine the moderating role of restrictive parenting on the relation of socioeconomic status (SES) to febrile illnesses (FIs) and upper respiratory illnesses (URIs) among ethnic minority and non-minority children.


Children from diverse ethnic backgrounds (Caucasian, African American, Asian, Latino, other, or multiethnic) were followed across the course of the kindergarten year. Parents reported on SES and parenting. A nurse completed 13 physical exams per child over the year to assess FIs and URIs.


During the school year, 28% of children (n = 199, 56% ethnic minority) exhibited one or more FIs (range, 0-6) and 90% exhibited one or more URIs (range, 0-10). No main or moderating effects of SES or restrictive parenting on FIs or URIs were found among Caucasian children; however, among ethnic minority children, the relation of SES to FIs was conditional upon restrictive parenting (β = .66; P = .02), as the fewest FIs were found for lower SES minority children whose parents reported more restrictive practices. Additionally, among minority children, more restrictive parenting was marginally associated with fewer URIs (β = -.21; P = .05).


Unexpectedly, among minority children the fewest illnesses occurred among lower SES children whose parents endorsed more restrictive parenting. This may be due to unique appraisals of this rearing style among minority children in lower SES environments and its potential to influence immune functioning. Results suggest variability in the effects of parenting on offspring health and support context-specific evaluations of parenting in efforts to ameliorate early health disparities.

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