Exposure to air pollution is known to have detrimental effects on health. Previous studies have also found that exposure to fine particulate matter can cause adverse mental health outcomes. However, the link between exposure to fine particulate matter and children's mental health outcomes remains largely unknown. Thus, this study aimed to understand the mechanisms of the effects of exposure to fine particulate matter on children's mental health outcomes, particularly focusing on internalizing problem behaviors. Using fine particulate data from the Ministry of Environment's Air Korea initiative and data from the Panel Study on Korean Children in 2018, this study employed structural equation models to examine the associations between exposure to fine particulate matter, maternal depressive symptoms, child abuse, and children's internalizing problems. Findings suggest that living in neighborhoods with higher exposure to fine particulate matter is positively associated with maternal depressive symptoms, increasing emotional abuse and neglect, which in turn is positively associated with children's internalizing problem behavior. However, physical abuse was not a significant mediator of children's internalizing problem behaviors. It may be necessary for policies that provide interventions for primary caregivers to reduce depression and child abuse to promote mental health outcomes for children, even in the presence of severe fine particulates.
- Child abuse
- Fine particulate matter
- Internalizing problem behavior