This is the first peer-reviewed study to quantify diaper need, propose a method to measure diaper need, and explore psychosocial variables associated with diaper need in a large sample of urban, low-income families.


Data were derived from a cross-sectional study in 877 pregnant and parenting women. Mothers completed surveys on topics related to mental health, basic needs, and health care use. Logistic regression was used to estimate the relationship between diaper need and psychosocial correlates.


Almost 30% of mothers reported diaper need. Hispanic women were significantly more likely to report diaper need than African American women (odds ratio [OR]: 1.96; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.51–3.33), and women ≥45 years of age were significantly more likely than women between the ages of 20 and 44 years to report diaper need (OR: 2.53; 95% CI: 1.21–5.28). Women who reported mental health need were significantly more likely than women who did not report mental health need to report diaper need (OR: 1.89; 95% CI: 1.16–3.09).


Although a majority of studies have examined family socioeconomic status as income and educational and employment status, emerging research suggests that indicators of material hardship are increasingly important to child health. This study supports this premise with the suggestion that an adequate supply of diapers may prove a tangible way of reducing parenting stress, a critical factor influencing child health and development. There is potential for pediatric providers to inquire about diaper need and refer families to a local diaper distribution service as 1 method to reduce parenting stress.

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