Intergenerational Consequences: Women's Experiences of Discrimination in Pregnancy Predict Infant Social-Emotional Development at 6 Months and 1 Year

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Abstract

Objective:

Racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in infant development in the United States have lifelong consequences. Discrimination predicts poorer health and academic outcomes. This study explored for the first time intergenerational consequences of women's experiences of discrimination reported during pregnancy for their infants' social-emotional development in the first year of life.

Methods:

Data come from a longitudinal study with predominantly Black and Latina, socioeconomically disadvantaged, urban young women (N = 704, Mage = 18.53) across pregnancy through 1 year postpartum. Women were recruited from community hospitals and health centers in a Northeastern US city. Linear regression analyses examined whether women's experiences of everyday discrimination reported during pregnancy predicted social-emotional development outcomes among their infants at 6 months and 1 year of age, controlling for potentially confounding medical and sociodemographic factors. Path analyses tested if pregnancy distress, anxiety, or depressive symptoms mediated significant associations.

Results:

Everyday discrimination reported during pregnancy prospectively predicted greater inhibition/separation problems and greater negative emotionality, but did not predict attention skills or positive emotionality, at 6 months and 1 year. Depressive symptoms mediated the association of discrimination with negative emotionality at 6 months, and pregnancy distress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms mediated the association of discrimination with negative emotionality at 1 year.

Conclusion:

Findings support that there are intergenerational consequences of discrimination, extending past findings to infant social-emotional development outcomes in the first year of life. It may be important to address discrimination before and during pregnancy and enhance support to mothers and infants exposed to discrimination to promote health equity across the life span.

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