Maternal Characteristics and Child Health: A Cross-National Comparison

Shannon E. Cavanagh , University of Texas
Molly Kudym, University of Texas
Carol Johnston, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Hyungmin Cha, University of Texas at Austin

Today, mothers of young children in Western societies “look” different. Amidst this change, mothers continue to maintain primary responsibility for managing their children’s development. The interplay of these trends has implications for children’s futures. Notably, some trends are associated with greater investments while others represent disruptions to such investments. Variation around the population-level means on maternal factors may also become significant. For example, as women have fewer children, disadvantages associated with higher parity could increase. We call this the relative disadvantage principle. At the same time, change happens within welfare regimes and the transmission of disadvantage may be greater in countries where public supports are low. We call this the contingent protection principle. This paper compares the linkages among characteristics of mothers and their children in four English-speaking countries. Next, we contrast these principles by testing these focal associations, using fixed effects integrative data analysis with pooled birth cohort data.

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 Presented in Session 4. Marriage, Family, Households, & Unions