Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 1072–1080 | Cite as

Mind the Gap: Gender Differences in Child Special Health Care Needs

  • Valerie Leiter
  • Patricia P. Rieker


The gendered nature of special health care needs in childhood is an important yet understudied area. Although gendered differences in the prevalence of special health care needs have been documented, there is less knowledge about the factors which contribute to those differences. Two research questions guide this inquiry. First, is the gender gap consistent across child special health care need indicators? Second, to what extent is the gender gap in special health care needs driven by behavioral conditions? We use multiple indicators from the U.S. National Survey of Children’s Health to expand our understanding about the dynamic relationship between gender and childhood health. There are clear gender differences in the prevalence of special health care needs. Boys are more likely than girls to have special health care needs overall and on the five separate components examined (medication, more care than typical, limitations, special therapies, and educational or behavioral problem). This gender gap is dynamic and varies by indicator; while behavioral conditions play a role, it remains even after controlling for behavioral conditions. The reasons for the gender differences appear to be both biological and social but much remains unknown about this pattern.


Gender Child health Special health care needs 



This work was supported by a Scholars Award to the first author from the William T. Grant Foundation. The authors wish to thank anonymous reviewers for their suggestions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologySimmons CollegeBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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