Biological and psychosocial factors affect child development and behavior. Whereas biological underpinnings behind the neurotoxic effects of lead are studied extensively, the effects of psychosocial factors contributing to poor behavioral outcomes in lead-exposed children are not well understood. Parental attributes and practices may moderate or mediate the effects of lead on children's behavioral outcomes. We investigated the hypothesis that maternal and child lead and hemoglobin levels are associated with maternal perceptions of their parenting. Specifically, we hypothesized that children with higher blood lead (BLL) and lower hemoglobin concentrations would be associated with poorer maternal self-assessments of their parenting skills or the mother-child relationship. Children aged 13-55 months and their mothers (n= 109) were recruited from among the participants of a previous lead and anemia screening study and from preschools in Montevideo, Uruguay. The mother-child pair attended two study visits: one to collect biological samples and answer demographic and child questionnaires, including statements regarding parenting; and a second to evaluate maternal IQ, depression and stress, and child development. Of the children, 51.6% had blood lead concentrations (BLLs) ≥5 μg/dL, 18.0% had anemia, and 8% had both conditions. Among mothers, 48.4% had BLLs ≥5 μg/dL, 16.0% had anemia, and 11% had both. BLLs ≥5 μg/dL in mother or child were associated with lower maternal perceptions of being skilled at discipline (p< 0.05). Maternal anemia was associated with lower likelihood that mothers would let their children explore and play (p< 0.05), whereas child anemia was associated with maternal perception of lower emotional support (p< 0.01). In addition to shared environmental exposures, parenting and family interactions need to be considered as potentially contributing factors to poorer outcomes in lead-exposed children.
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