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When children grow up in a safe and nurturing home environment, have opportunities to learn, and time to interact and build relationships with other children, they are more likely to reach their full potential. This is especially true for children with mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders.

Mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders, such as anxietyattention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, and learning problems, often begin in early childhood and can affect life-long health and well-being. Children with these disorders face challenges at home, at school, and with friends. About 1 in 7 U.S. children aged 2-8 years have a mental, behavioral, and/or developmental disorder reported by a parent.

Previous research has shown that children with mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders and their families face personal, financial, and neighborhood challenges more often than families of children without these disorders. These challenges may make it harder for some parents to give their child the resources they need to thrive. The type of community that families live in, urban versus rural, may increase these challenges.

To better understand the differences between urban and rural areas, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers collected information from parents on children’s mental health in both urban and rural areas. Parents were asked questions about their child’s mental health, their own mental health, their neighborhood, and other personal and community factors.

Parents of children with mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders in rural areas (isolated, small rural, and large rural areas combined) more often reported having trouble getting by on their family’s income than parents of children with these disorders in urban areas. Regardless of poverty level and race/ethnicity, these parents more often rated their own mental health or their partner’s mental health as “fair” or “poor;” they also more often reported living in a neighborhood in poor condition and without amenities, such as parks, recreation centers, and libraries. To overcome these challenges, children and their parents living in rural communities may need additional support.

Children with mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders can benefit from better access to mental and behavioral health care, programs that support parents and caregivers, and opportunities to learn, play, and socialize.

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Helping Children Thrive in Rural Communities
Learn about data on children with mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders in rural and urban areas.
(Published: March 12, 2019)