Washington, Dec 4: The value an expectant mother places on her family can tell how healthy a baby is going to be three years later.
These findings from University of Southern California (USC) suggest that one’s culture is a resource that can provide tangible physical health benefits.
“We know that social support has profound health implications. Yet in this case, this is more a story of beliefs than of actual family support,” said Cleopatra Abdou, assistant professor at USC Davis School of Gerontology, the journal Social Science & Medicine reports.
Abdou studied 4,633 socio-economically disadvantaged women, gauging their “familism” or, more specifically, their beliefs about familial roles and responsibilities, using a questionnaire, according to an USC statement.
Familism was determined by responses to statements such as, “single moms can do just as well as married parents,” or “it is better for children if their parents are married.”
Abdou then tracked the health of their children and found that for every one point increase in familism, there was a 71 gram increase in birth weight independent of a whole host of other factors-including the gender of the infant or whether the mother was married.
Average birth weight in the United States is roughly 3.4 kg.
Low birth weight, typically defined as under 2.5 kg, has been linked to health problems later in life. Higher familism also predicted lower rates of asthma in the children up to three years later.
Though one might expect to see healthier children from mothers who reported strong family support, familism is a cultural measure that exists outside of an individual’s actual circumstances.
“Cultural beliefs and ideals can be distinct from one’s present reality. Familism is about beliefs and ideals within families. That’s why familism is referred to as a cultural resource,” Abdou said.