Parent health beliefs, social determinants of health, and child health services utilization among us school-age children with autism

Katharine E. Zuckerman, Olivia J. Lindly, Brianna K. Sinche, Christina Nicolaidis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Objective: Substantial variation exists in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) care by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status; however, the role of parent health beliefs in this variation is poorly understood. Study goals were to (1) examine variation in parent beliefs about ASD prognosis and treatment according to social determinants of health (SDH) and (2) assess whether this variation was associated with variable health services utilization, among 1420 children with special health care needs (CSHCN) having ASD. Methods: We used linked data from the 2011 Survey of Pathways to Diagnosis and Treatment and the 2009-2010 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. Bivariate and multivariate analyses assessed variation in parent beliefs according to race/ethnicity, household income, and parent educational attainment. Further analyses assessed whether variation in beliefs was associated with the use of psychotropic medication, traditional therapy, or complementary/alternative therapy for ASD. Results: Parents of lower educational attainment or who had lower income were more likely to think that their child's condition was a mystery. Near-poor families were less likely to believe that they had the power to change the child's condition. Parents of minority children were more likely than white children to view their child's condition as temporary. However, these differences in beliefs only had modest associations with variation in use of the health services analyzed. Conclusions: Some SDH-related variation exists in health beliefs among parents of children with ASD, but these differences may not be the main factors accounting for ASD health care disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-157
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 17 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • health beliefs
  • health services
  • healthcare disparities
  • social determinants of health.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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