Children who were born in the early 1980s in the Stockholm suburb that was studied had a home environment that may be described as follows. The material standards in the area were good, the dwellings were spacious and modern, the outdoor environment was pleasant for children and the municipal service facilities were well developed. The transport services to the city are frequent, comfortable and convenient. In a typical case, the parents are about 30 years old, they are of old Swedish stock and are living together, married or unmarried. They received a good education and usually also occupational training. Generally, both parents have a job outside the home. In quite a few such cases the mother has shift- or nightwork. Although both parents have jobs, the family surprisingly often has financial problems. Thus more than one family in five needed financial assistance from the authorities. The financial difficulties may be due to illness and addiction in the parents. About one in ten of the mothers has been hospitalised for a chronic somatic disease and about one in ten of the fathers is in the records for alcoholism. Criminality is also common, every sixth or seventh father having a police record. About every fourth child born in this suburb will grow up in a home where either the father or the mother is known for an addiction and/or criminality, and/or has been treated for mental illness. To conjure up and describe the atmosphere in a home in this suburb is not easy but in the present study information was obtained supporting the suspicion that many homes are characterised by insecurity, isolation and hopelessness and a serious unsatisfied need for help. Many of the mothers have grown up in rather special social conditions--for instance, in "broken homes", or with an alcoholic father or a mentally ill mother. As a result, nearly every tenth mother had been placed outside the home at an early age (in a foster-home or suchlike). In later years also, many of the mothers have had the burden of sick, malformed or mentally retarded children in their home, or have experienced the serious illness or death of some person close to them. Particularly in the period before their child's birth many women have had reason to feel anxious. About one woman in three has already had a miscarriage and/or abortion, and during pregnancy she may have suffered from serious nausea or depression. Quite a few also needed to take medicines during that time. In many families, it is reported, the man and woman have had trouble in living together, with resultant divorce situations, quarrels and assaults.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)
The study is part of a longitudinal research project of a cohort of 501 children in a Stockholm suburb. The aim of the project is to clarify the relation between the children's health and development and their home environment. The present work deals with the children's physical health during their first year of life and comparisons were made between infants in families suffering or not suffering from psychosocial stress. Indications of psychosocial stress in the homes include reports of alcohol abuse, mental disease or criminality in one or both of the parents. Judging by reports from child welfare centres and hospital records, children from homes with psychosocial stress do not have a higher rate of somatic illnesses, retarded psychomotor development and psychosomatic problems than the control children.
In a current prospective sociomedical study of families in a Stockholm suburb, their home environments were investigated through interviews with the mothers on their first visit to a maternity health centre when pregnant, and through data obtained from various records. In a sample of 498 mothers, 109 women with psychosocial difficulties were compared with 255 women of the same age but who were not psychosocially deprived. While taking into account biomedical risk factors and parity, it appeared that there was little difference between the groups with regard to frequency of complications in pregnancy, delivery or in the newborn infant. The existence of supportive medical and social factors could be one explanation as to why anticipated differences between the groups were not observed.