Rising income inequality is strongly linked to health disparities, particularly in regions where uneven distribution of wealth and income has long been a concern. Despite emerging evidence of COVID-19-related health inequalities for adults, limited evidence is available for children and their parents. This study aimed to explore subtypes of families of preschoolers living in the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Hong Kong based on patterns of family hardship and to compare their patterns of parenting behavior, lifestyle practices, and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data were collected from 1338 preschoolers and their parents during March to June 2020. Latent class analysis was performed based on 11 socioeconomic and disease indicators. Multivariate logistic regressions were used to examine associations between identified classes and variables of interest during the COVID-19 pandemic. Four classes of family hardship were identified. Class 1 (45.7%) had the lowest disease and financial burden. Class 2 (14.0%) had the highest financial burden. Class 3 (5.9%) had the highest disease burden. Class 4 (34.5%) had low family income but did not receive government welfare assistance. Class 1 (low hardship) had lower risks of child maltreatment and adjustment problems than Class 2 (poverty) and Class 3 (poor health). However, children in Class 1 (low hardship) had higher odds of suffering psychological aggression and poorer physical wellbeing than those in Class 4 (low income), even after adjusting for child age and gender. The findings emphasize the need to adopt flexible intervention strategies in the time of large disease outbreak to address diverse problems and concerns among socially disadvantaged families.
- family hardship
- health disparity
- latent class analysis
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis