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Marital status and infant health outcomes


  • Bennett, Trude


Out-of-wedlock status has long been recognized as a demographic risk factor associated with infant mortality and low birthweight. However, the relationship between marital status and birth outcomes varies by maternal race and age. The negative impact of unmarried status is greatest for white women aged 20 and over. High infant mortality rates for married teen mothers challenge the assumption that marriage necessarily provides a protective environment for childbearing. Maternal and child health research and policy have been hindered by a deviance model of out-of-wedlock fertility, which is both biased and outdated. Inconsistencies in the effect of marital status indicate variations in both economic and social resources. Purely behavioral explanations for escalated risks to unmarried mothers are not justified by research findings. Alternative interpretations suggest the need for greater societal involvement in maternal health care created in part by changes in family structure.

Suggested Citation

  • Bennett, Trude, 1992. "Marital status and infant health outcomes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 35(9), pages 1179-1187, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:35:y:1992:i:9:p:1179-1187

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Reime, Birgit & Ratner, Pamela A. & Tomaselli-Reime, Sandra N. & Kelly, Ann & Schuecking, Beate A. & Wenzlaff, Paul, 2006. "The role of mediating factors in the association between social deprivation and low birth weight in Germany," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(7), pages 1731-1744, April.
    2. Hilke Brockmann, 2012. "Ungesunde Verhältnisse?: Eine Längsschnittanalyse zur Gesundheit von Kindern in zusammen- und getrenntlebenden Familien," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 503, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    3. Wanchuan Lin, 2009. "Why has the health inequality among infants in the US declined? Accounting for the shrinking gap," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(7), pages 823-841.
    4. Kasey Buckles & Joseph Price, 2013. "Selection and the Marriage Premium for Infant Health," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(4), pages 1315-1339, August.
    5. Ayllón, Sara & Ferreira-Batista, Natalia N., 2015. "‘Mommy, I miss daddy’. The effect of family structure on children's health in Brazil," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 75-89.
    6. Teresa Castro Martín, 2010. "Single motherhood and low birthweight in Spain," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 22(27), pages 863-890, May.
    7. Gyimah, Stephen Obeng, 2009. "Polygynous marital structure and child survivorship in sub-Saharan Africa: Some empirical evidence from Ghana," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 334-342, January.
    8. Heaton, Tim B. & Forste, Renata & Hoffmann, John P. & Flake, Dallan, 2005. "Cross-national variation in family influences on child health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 97-108, January.


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