Danish children of parents with multiple sclerosis (MS) are not hampered in their educational efforts by illness in the home, according to a study finding these children earned higher grades than their peers through elementary and into their high school years.
The study, “Children of parents with multiple sclerosis attain higher grades in basic school,” was presented during the Nurses Session 1 at the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) 2016 Congress, taking place in London on Sept. 14–17.
The educational performance of children with MS parents has not attracted much attention by scientists. But researchers at the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Center at Rigshospitalet, joined by colleagues at several Danish universities, did a thorough job, examining the performance of nearly 40,000 children.
Denmark is known for its widespread use of various population-based registries, holding information on things as disparate as chronic diseases and the characteristics of twins — a practice that enables researchers to perform studies that include data on thousands of people in a relatively effortless manner.
Researchers used the Danish MS Registry to identify all people diagnosed with MS from 1950 to 1986. Linking this data to other population-based registries, the research team identified 4,177 children born to a parent with MS. They also identified 33,416 children through the Danish Civil Registration System — born to parents without the disease — to be used as controls.
If there were several siblings in a family, researchers chose only one to be included in the study. Deceased children, twins, and those who were not born in Denmark were excluded from the analysis.
Every child born to an MS parent was compared to eight control children of the same age and sex, and the team was able to access students’ grades through nationwide educational registries.
The study showed that children of MS parents had significantly higher grades than their peers in the final exams of what is called “basic” school (public education is mandatory in Denmark through age 16). Interestingly, as the children reached higher educational levels, this difference disappeared. Researchers also noted that children of MS parents more often tended to choose health-related educations compared to the controls. This finding was, however, not statistically significant.
Based on the results, the team concluded in their ECTRIMS presentation that, “the educational attainments do not appear hampered by having a parent with MS.”