When Mom Has Health Issues, So Do Children

Asthma and obesity come from unhealthy mothers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Children are often at the mercy of their parents' lifestyle habits. Parents who eat at fast food joints and cafeterias with high calorie, high fat foods can often be seen with less than healthy looking children.

According to a recent study from Penn State University, children whose mothers were both disadvantaged and in poor health were five times more likely to have below average or poor health than those children whose mothers were only disadvantaged.

The children of disadvantaged and unhealthy mothers are more likely to have asthma, learning disabilities and visits to the emergency room

"Mom, take good care of yourself! Your children will benefit."

Nancy S. Landale, co-authored of the study, from Pennsylvania State University’s Population Research Institute reports the most startling aspect of their study is the contrast between two different groups of disadvantaged children: The group of children whose mothers were in good health and those whose mothers were in poor health.

According to study co-author Jessica Halliday Hardie, Landale's colleague at Penn State, reports that mothers with frequent health issues may have a more difficult time following through with the day-to-day care of her children.

She also may not be able to take them to regular medical checkups. There is also an emotional burden placed on children whose mothers aren't very healthy that may heighten the children's anxiety and stress levels. Mothers that need additional healthcare create a financial burden that leads to children's health needs which cannot be financially met.

Hardie also reports that some will conclude genetics alone are responsible for the disparity found in her study, but the researchers have found that a child's well-being is at least partially environmental, not genetically driven.

Using a modeling program identifying subsets of people with similar profiles, Landale and Hardie classified mothers in one of three groups: Mothers who are disadvantaged and report health problems (around 15 percent), mothers who are disadvantaged but do not report health problems (approximately 34 percent) and women who are neither disadvantaged nor reporting health problems (about 51 percent).

Consistent with previous research, Hardie and Landale's research find that children whose mothers are in the last group that are neither disadvantaged nor unhealthy usually have the best health outcomes. These children have less risk of developing asthma, being overweight and not going to their pediatrician regularly.

This new research will be presented at the 106th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Study findings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 22, 2011
Last Updated:
August 24, 2011