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Infant Birth Weight and Maltreatment of Adolescent Mothers

      Background

      Emerging literature suggests that maternal exposure to stress and adversity throughout the life course may have health consequences for offspring.

      Purpose

      To examine the maltreatment history of adolescent mothers as an independent predictor of infant birth weight.

      Methods

      Birth records for all infants born between 2007 and 2009 to mothers aged 12–19 years were extracted from California’s vital statistics files. Maternal information from the birth record was linked to child protection data (1999–2009) to identify young mothers with substantiated maltreatment. Generalized linear models run in 2012 were used to estimate the relationship between maternal maltreatment and infant birth weight, after adjusting for maternal sociodemographic risk factors and health behaviors.

      Results

      Among the 153,762 singleton infants born to adolescent mothers, 7.1% (n=10,886) weighed <2500 g at birth. Of all adolescent mothers, 13.6% had been substantiated as victims of maltreatment after age 10 years and before giving birth. After adjusting for known factors predictive of negative birth outcomes, maltreatment history was associated with a slight yet significantly increased risk of low birth weight among infants (risk ratio=1.06, 95% CI=1.01, 1.12).

      Conclusions

      Findings from this study suggest that maltreatment history of adolescent mothers is associated with infant low birth weight (<2500 g). Although the increased risk was small and the mechanism unclear, these data indicate that maternal maltreatment not only may have consequences for the victim but also may contribute to intergenerational health disparities.
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