Baby's health is tied to mother's value for family

December 03, 2012

The value that an expectant mother places on family--regardless of the reality of her own family situation--predicts the birthweight of her baby and whether the child will develop asthma symptoms three years later, according to new research from USC.

The findings suggest that one's culture is a resource that can provide tangible physical health benefits.

"We know that social support has profound health implications; yet, in this case, this is more a story of beliefs than of actual family support," said Cleopatra Abdou, assistant professor at the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

Abdou studied 4,633 socioeconomically disadvantaged white, black and Hispanic women, gauging their "familism," or, more specifically, their beliefs about familial roles and responsibilities, using a questionnaire. Familism was determined by responses to statements such as, "Single moms can do just as well as married parents," or "It is better for children if their parents are married."

Abdou then tracked the health of their children and found that, for every one-point increase in familism, there was a 71-gram increase in birthweight independent of a whole host of other factors--including the gender of the infant or whether the mother was married. (For context, average birthweight in the U.S. is around 7.5 pounds, or roughly 3,400 grams. Low birthweight, typically defined as under 5.5 pounds or 2,500 grams, has been linked to health problems later in life.) Higher familism also predicted lower rates of asthma in the children up to three years later.

Though one might expect to see healthier children from mothers who reported strong family support, familism is a cultural measure that exists outside of an individual's actual circumstances.

"Cultural beliefs and ideals can be distinct from one's present reality. Familism is about beliefs and ideals within families. That's why familism is referred to as a cultural resource. The cultural resource of familism appears to favorably impact both reproductive health in mothers as well as critical markers of physical health in offspring. That is, the transmission of health from one generation to another," Abdou said.

Abdou's findings were published online on Nov. 9 in the journal Social Science & Medicine, in an article coauthored by Tyan Parker Dominguez of USC and Hector F. Myers of UCLA.

The results may shed light on the so-called "Hispanic Paradox" or "epidemiologic paradox," first documented in 1986 by Markides and Coreil, which found that immigrant populations in the United States tend to be relatively healthy compared to their peers, despite being poorer.

In general, poorer populations tend to be less healthy than wealthier ones. The epidemiologic paradox diminishes over time, with immigrant populations becoming less and less healthy as they start assimilating into American culture.

Abdou theorizes that U.S.-born populations, in addition to immigrant populations, can benefit in terms of mental and physical health from strong cultural resources, a theory that is supported by this study. Her work continues to probe the connections between health and culture in diverse populations in the United States and the Middle East.
-end-
This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the the National Institutes of Health (NICHD Grant R01HD36916).

University of Southern California

Related Asthma Articles from Brightsurf:

Breastfeeding and risks of allergies and asthma
In an Acta Paediatrica study, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 3 months was linked with a lower risk of respiratory allergies and asthma when children reached 6 years of age.

Researchers make asthma breakthrough
Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have made a breakthrough that may eventually lead to improved therapeutic options for people living with asthma.

Physics vs. asthma
A research team from the MIPT Center for Molecular Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Diseases has collaborated with colleagues from the U.S., Canada, France, and Germany to determine the spatial structure of the CysLT1 receptor.

New knowledge on the development of asthma
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have studied which genes are expressed in overactive immune cells in mice with asthma-like inflammation of the airways.

Eating fish may help prevent asthma
A scientist from James Cook University in Australia says an innovative study has revealed new evidence that eating fish can help prevent asthma.

Academic performance of urban children with asthma worse than peers without asthma
A new study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows urban children with poorly controlled asthma, particularly those who are ethnic minorities, also suffer academically.

Asthma Controller Step Down Yardstick -- treatment guidance for when asthma improves
The focus for asthma treatment is often stepping up treatment, but clinicians need to know how to step down therapy when symptoms improve.

Asthma management tools improve asthma control and reduce hospital visits
A set of comprehensive asthma management tools helps decrease asthma-related visits to the emergency department, urgent care or hospital and improves patients' asthma control.

Asthma linked to infertility but not among women taking regular asthma preventers
Women with asthma who only use short-acting asthma relievers take longer to become pregnant than other women, according to research published in the European Respiratory Journal.

What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma?
A team of experts from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston examined the current information available from many different sources on diagnosing and managing mild to moderate asthma in adults and summarized them.

Read More: Asthma News and Asthma Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.