The impact of maternal health and involvement on children's well-being: A latent growth model



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The overall well-being of a society can be measured by the health of its individuals. Health is not just a physical indicator, but includes both mental and social well-being for individuals. The current research study specifically looks at maternal health (or mother’s health) and child health and well-being, and tries to empirically demonstrate if maternal health over time could be considered as a valuable predictor for child health and well-being. It also explores the possibility of family process variables, like parental involvement influencing children’s health. It further investigates if such relationships are mediated by maternal health. The study also tries to understand policy issues like impact of Medicaid and other government sponsored health programs for children on child health and well-being. A secondary data analysis of the above mentioned enquiries is done with the help of the “Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS)” dataset. It is a longitudinal analysis covering all 4 waves of available data. Latent growth structural equation models and panel models are constructed to examine the proposed hypotheses. It was observed that initial maternal health did not influence the change in child health over time. Improvement in child health over the 4 waves had a lower trajectory than maternal heath, but maternal health saw an abrupt decline between child age 5 and age 9. The above outcomes did not have any group differences between foreign born mothers and US born mothers. This was in contrast to earlier studies that have studied the “immigration paradox” on health related protective factors for children’s health and well-being outcomes, that stem from best practices of health behavior among immigrant parents. The study also finds that mother’s education level has a significant impact on both mother and child’s future health, among mothers married/cohabiting with the child’s biological father. A similar trend is also observed for mothers who share a friendly/visiting relationship with the child’s biological father. A unique finding of this research study is that, initial maternal health acts as a partial mediator between maternal involvement and child health. The meditation effect is more pronounced in African American mothers (21%) followed by Non-Hispanic whites (18.9 %). A cross-lagged panel model was created to understand if the health condition of children on Medicaid could be predicted from their well-being (measured here in terms of acute incidents). The proposed model was successful in explaining some temporal causation for children on Medicaid and but was unable to predict the same for the non-Medicaid group. The above findings are not just correlations, they are measured over 4 different time points and hence indicate causation between the factors. The results of this research study should aid policy makers to frame more appropriate policy on maternal health, and child health and well-being in the future.



Maternal health, Child health