Romitti studies mental health status among mothers of children with oral clefts

Published on July 24, 2014

A portrait of Paul Romitti of the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
Paul Romitti

Researchers from the University of Iowa College of Public Health, led by Paul Romitti, professor of epidemiology, recently published their examination of mental health status and aggravation level among mothers of children with isolated oral clefts in The Cleft Palate – Craniofacial Journal.

Romitti’s team found mothers of children with oral clefts were not more likely to report poor mental health status than parents of unaffected children. Nor did these mothers experience higher levels of aggravation in parenting than those of unaffected children.

However, the study did find that among mothers of children with oral clefts, low socio-demographic factors were associated with reported poor mental health and higher levels of parenting aggravation. Mothers reporting poor mental health were less educated, had lower household incomes, and had lower ratings of their own and their child’s health compared to those mothers who reported good mental health. In addition, mothers with high parenting aggravation levels reported lower household income and a greater number of children than those with moderate or low aggravation.

The psychosocial adjustment of a child with an oral cleft can be affected by the psychological adaptation of the parent or caregiver. A parent who experiences anxiety, stress, or depression in the developing child’s early stages may negatively influence the child. Parents can adapt to the needs of an oral cleft child by seeking social support and applying coping and adjustment strategies.

Screenings for mental health and parenting during routine appointments could identify parents who are at-risk. Referrals to mental health providers and community outreach programs could potentially help these parents cope and reduce the negative impact on their child.

(This article also appeared in the ASPPH Friday Letter)