NEW YORK — Which children have received the most letters from their parents over the last two decades?
A new study finds that the children of the parents who were diagnosed with a chronic illness were more likely to be sent letters by their parents than those of the children who were healthy and did not have a diagnosis.
The study, published online Wednesday by the journal Pediatrics, found that the letters from children who had chronic illnesses were sent by parents to their children on average 4.5 times more often than those sent to healthy children.
It is the first study to find that parents send letters to their kids more often when the children have a chronic medical condition than when the child does not.
“Our study suggests that children with chronic illnesses are less likely to receive letters from parents than children who do not have chronic illnesses,” said study author Dr. Andrew J. Schmitt, director of the Center for Children and Families at the University of Pennsylvania.
He said that the findings suggest that parents may want to be careful about sending letters to children who have been diagnosed with chronic diseases.
Children who have received letters from caregivers who are not in a long-term relationship are more likely than children in a relationship with caregivers who were never diagnosed to receive a letter from a parent, the study found.
Schmitt and his colleagues studied more than 8,000 children in the United States between 2001 and 2014.
More than half the children with the diagnosis were from the Northeast.
Among the children, the rate of letter-sending was highest among children who received the diagnosis within a year of diagnosis.
That meant they were the most likely to have received a letter by the time they were three, five or 10 years old.
Those children were also more likely (57%) to receive letter from parents that were the same age as the child than those who were not in the relationship.
Of the 2,066 children who did not receive a diagnosis by the age of 10, 744 received a call from their caregiver or a caregiver from another child’s household who did.
And nearly a third of the letters received were from a caregiven or a child’s parent.
In contrast, only 19% of children who suffered from an illness or condition that required hospitalization received a formal letter from their health care provider.
Nearly 40% of the kids who had a diagnosis in the first three years received a written letter, the researchers found.