Maternal mental illness appears to increase the risk of unintentional childhood injuries, which are a common cause of morbidity and mortality in early childhood. However, little is known about the variations in this association by type of injury and child’s age, and studies on the effects of maternal somatic illness on children’s injury risk are scarce.
We used Finnish total population register data from 2000 to 2017 to link 1 369 325 children to their biological mothers and followed them for maternal illness and childhood injuries until the children’s sixth birthday. Cox regression models were used to examine the associations between maternal illness and children’s injuries by type of illness (neurological, psychiatric and cancer), type of injury (transport injuries, falls, burns, drowning or suffocations, poisonings, exposure to inanimate and animate mechanical forces) and child’s age (<1 year-olds, 1–2 year-olds, 3–5 year-olds).
After adjustment for family structure, maternal age at birth, maternal education, income, child’s gender, native language and region of residence, children of unwell mothers showed a higher risk of injuries (HR: 1.21, 95% CI: 1.19 to 1.23). This association was clear for maternal neurological (HR: 1.31, 95% CI: 1.26 to 1.36) and psychiatric illnesses (HR: 1.20, 95% CI: 1.18 to 1.23) but inconsistent for cancer. Maternal illness predicted an increased risk of injury across all age groups.
Maternal mental and somatic illness may both increase children’s injury risk. Adequate social and parenting support for families with maternal illness may reduce childhood injury.