Maternal familism predicts birthweight and asthma symptoms three years later
There are marked ethnic and socioeconomic differences in birthweight and childhood asthma, conditions which may be linked causally or via a third variable. Cultural resources are often credited with diminished health disparities in infancy and childhood among subsets of poor and minority populations; yet direct empirical tests of this hypothesis are needed. In this study, ethnicity, lifespan family socioeconomic position (FSEP), and the cultural resource of familism were compared as predictors of birthweight and expression of asthma symptoms (AE) by age three. Familism and lifespan FSEP were assessed in 4633 socioeconomically disadvantaged African Americans, White Americans, and Latinas upon giving birth, as was offspring birthweight. AE was assessed in offspring through age three. Asthma diagnosis by age three was likelier in very low (≤1500 g) and low (≤2500 g) birthweight infants compared to infants born at average (2501–3999 g) or larger (≥4000 g) birthweights. Asthma risk associated with lower birthweight was higher for Latinos (17–35%) and African Americans (19–23%) than for White Americans (13–14%). As predicted, maternal familism was higher among White Americans than among African Americans and Latinas, an effect that was largely driven by ethnic disparities in lifespan FSEP. Familism predicted continuous birthweight (p = .003) and AE (p = .001) by age three independently of ethnicity and lifespan FSEP accounting for appropriate control variables, including maternal biomedical risk, maternal acculturation, parental marital status, and infant sex. There was a 71-g gain in birthweight for every one-unit increase in familism. The protective effect of familism on AE by age three was strongest for participants of lower lifespan FSEP. Maternal familism is one cultural resource that may reduce reproductive and intergenerational health disparities in both U.S.- and foreign-born Americans. Consistent with our previous work, familism and other nonmaterial resources covary with material resources. Nevertheless, culture is distinguishable from lifespan FSEP and ethnicity, and has health implications beyond associations to ethnicity, lifespan FSEP, and related biomedical and sociodemographic factors.
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Volume (Year): 76 (2013)
Issue (Month): C ()
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