Maternal Influences on Child Health Behaviors
Decker, Ryan M.
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Previous studies that have examined the link between parental and child health behaviors have looked exclusively at contemporaneous relationships. While controlling for the childhood environment, this paper examines the effect of maternal health behaviors while the child is young on the child’s health behaviors later in life. Health behaviors of interest are cigarette and alcohol consumption. Utilizing longitudinal survey data following both mother and child over time, this study finds that maternal smoking during the child’s childhood increases the probability that the child will smoke later in life by 9 percentage points. Moreover, maternal smoking during the child’s childhood increases the number of cigarettes smoked later in life by 33 percent. Similarly, maternal binge drinking during the child’s childhood increases the probability the child will binge drink later in life by 3 percentage points. Early and late childhood factors also significantly influence future health behavior decisions. The findings from this research have significant intergenerational health implications, particularly with respect to tobacco and alcohol control polices.
Binge Drinking Behavior