A new research has suggested that disadvantaged, unhealthy mothers are much more likely to have sickly children than disadvantaged moms who are relatively healthy-and this is not only due to genetics.
Relying on nationally representative data from the 2007 and 2008 National Health Interview Surveys, the study found that children whose mothers are both in poor health and disadvantaged (determined by a combination of family income, race/ethnicity, family structure, and mother's level of education) experience a significantly greater number of health issues-such as having fair or poor overall health and suffering from asthma-than children whose mothers are disadvantaged but relatively healthy.
"Mothers who experience frequent or serious health problems may have a harder time monitoring their children or performing day-to-day caretaking tasks, including taking their children to regular medical checkups," said study co-author Jessica Halliday Hardie.
"Maternal health problems can also place emotional and material burdens on children and heighten their stress and anxiety. Finally, to care for herself, an unhealthy mother may have to use financial resources that could otherwise benefit her children," added Hardie.
Children of disadvantaged, unhealthy mothers also fare worse than children of disadvantaged, healthy mothers on other indicators of well-being.
They have significantly higher odds of having asthma and a learning disability, and are more likely to go to the emergency room.
"Skeptics may jump to the conclusion that genetics alone are responsible for the health disparities among these groups," Hardie said.
"But, we assess indicators of well-being that are at least partly environmentally conditioned, which suggests that group differences are not completely due to genetics," added Hardie.
The new research will be presented at the 106th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.