Together Forever? Relationship Dynamics and Maternal Investments in Children’s Health

Rachel T. Kimbro, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Using Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Data (N=3,798), this paper examines the question of why relationship status matters for a mother's prenatal health behavior choices. The paper argues that a mother's decisions on how much to invest in her child are driven by her romantic relationship, such that the more committed she perceives the father to be, the better her prenatal health behavior decisions. The paper examines late prenatal care, smoking and drinking during pregnancy, and whether the mother breastfed her baby. Results show that several aspects of a mother’s relationship commitment, including multiple partner fertility, relationship quality, and for unmarried mothers, whether she believes she will eventually marry the father, all predict her prenatal health behaviors above and beyond confounding factors. Mothers who perceive a high degree of commitment on the part of the father have better prenatal health behaviors.

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Presented in Session 86: Family Dynamics, Intergenerational Relationships, and Health