Marital status and infant health outcomes
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health research and policy have been hindered by a deviance model of out-of-wedlock fertility, which is both biased and outdated.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.
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Volume (Year): 35 (1992)
Issue (Month): 9 (November)
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