Paternal Acculturation and Maternal Health Behaviors: Influence of Father’s Ethnicity and Place of Birth


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Studies show disparities in maternal health behaviors according to acculturation, but whether paternal factors influence these patterns is unknown. We assessed the relationships between fathers’ ethnicity and place of birth with maternal smoking during pregnancy and breastfeeding initiation overall and for 30 major ethnic groups. Data were from the Standard Certificate of Live Births on 1,053,096 births in Massachusetts between 1996 through 2010. We examined the concordance of maternal and paternal ethnicity and place of birth across three categories (United States-born white, United States-born Other ethnicity, and foreign-born), and then in relation to maternal smoking during pregnancy and breastfeeding initiation. Multivariable models adjusted for maternal age, marital status, education, plurality, parity, prenatal care, delivery source of payment, and year of birth. United States-born white mothers were less likely to smoke during pregnancy (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 0.66; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.60, 0.73) and more likely to initiate breastfeeding (AOR 1.56; 95% CI: 1.46, 1.66) if their partners were foreign-born. In contrast, foreign-born mothers whose partners were United States-born of Other ethnicity or United States-born white had a 1.65-5.12 higher odds of smoking during pregnancy and were 26%-41% less likely (AORs 0.59-0.74) to initiate breastfeeding than if their partners were also foreign-born. Results were consistent across most racial/ethnic groups. Our findings offer new insight into the social pathways by which acculturation impacts maternal health behaviors and add to growing evidence that fathers are valuable to maternal health. Future efforts to understand how acculturation results in poorer maternal health behaviors should account for paternal influences.

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