Parental education, childhood experiences associated with HbA1c in diabetes

Children with more educated parents and positive life experiences are more likely to have a lower HbA1c vs. children whose parents did not complete high school or who have experienced adverse life events, according to study findings presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in Baltimore.

“[A] 1999 study by [CDC] and Kaiser Permanente documented a link between adverse childhood experiences and chronic illnesses that adults develop,” Vanessa Davis, MD, MBBS, of the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in Chicago, and colleagues wrote. “These [adverse childhood experiences] include abuse and neglect and parental substance abuse, domestic violence or absence. Exposure to [adverse life events] without the modulating effect of supportive adults correlates with increased rates of illnesses, such as diabetes, in adulthood. Diabetes control (measured by HbA1c) may be affected by life experiences.”

Davis and colleagues analyzed data from 39 children recruited at a diabetes camp and diabetes clinic between August and October 2015 (mean age, 14 years; 20 boys; 18 Hispanic; mean HbA1c, 8.9%). Participants older than 12 years and their parents completed the Child and Adolescent Survey of Experiences questionnaire; HbA1c was obtained via camp physical or clinic records. Data collection is ongoing.

Within the cohort, 46% of parents completed high school; 21% reported some college education; 13% completed college. Researchers found that parental perceptions of their child’s positive experiences inversely correlated with HbA1c, but the trend did not reach significance. Researchers also found that parental education level was inversely correlated with their child’s HbA1c (P = .041). Children of parents with at least a high school education had significantly lower mean HbA1c (mean, 8.5%) than those with less than a high school education (12.2%; P = .0003).

“This pilot study indicates a trend toward HbA1c being influenced by positive childhood experiences,” the researchers wrote. “Youth with diabetes who have many adverse childhood experiences may benefit from increased favorable experiences and resilience training to improve HbA1c. As previously shown … parental literacy may influence child’s HbA1c. Parents with less than high school education may benefit from ‘bite-size,’ ongoing teaching sessions to improve their child’s HbA1c.” – by Regina Schaffer


Davis V, et al. Poster #125. Presented at: Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting; April 30-May 3, 2016; Baltimore.

Disclosure: Endocrine Today was unable to determine relevant financial disclosures.

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