Neighborhood Disadvantage, Preconception Stressful Life Events, and Infant Birth Weight

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We sought to determine whether the effects of preconception stressful life events (PSLEs) on birth weight differed by neighborhood disadvantage.


We drew our data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (2001-2002; n = 9300). We created a neighborhood disadvantage index (NDI) using county-level data from the 2000 US Census. We grouped the NDI into tertiles that represented advantaged, middle advantaged, and disadvantaged neighborhoods. Stratified multinomial logistic regressions estimated the effect of PSLEs on birth weight, controlling for confounders.


We found a gradient in the relationship between women’s exposure to PSLEs and having a very low birth weight (VLBW) infant by NDI tertile; the association was strongest in disadvantaged neighborhoods (adjusted odd ratio [AOR] = 1.62; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.04, 2.53), followed by middle (AOR = 1.39; 95% CI = 1.00, 1.93) and advantaged (AOR = 1.29; 95% CI = 0.91, 1.82) neighborhoods. We observed a similar gradient for women with chronic conditions and among minority mothers.


Women who experienced PSLEs, who had chronic conditions, or were racial/ethnic minorities had the greatest risk of having VLBW infants if they lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods; this suggests exacerbation of risk within disadvantaged environments. Interventions to reduce rates of VLBW should focus on reducing the deleterious effects of stressors and on improving neighborhood conditions.

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