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Women inherit more than their looks from their mothers

And it can be used to make children healthier.

Image: Shutterstock/gpointstudio

A WOMAN’S WEIGHT, education level and marital status pre-pregnancy can have repercussions for two generations, putting her children and grandchildren at higher risk of low birth weight.

That is according to a study from the University of California, which ties together social and biological factors using population data.

Assistant professor of sociology at the university Jennifer Kane, says that low birth weight matters for a number of reasons.

We know that low-birth-weight babies are more susceptible to later physical and cognitive difficulties and that these difficulties can sharpen the social divide in the U.S. But knowing more about what causes low birth weight can help alleviate the intergenerational perpetuation of social inequality through poor infant health.

The study has been published in the June edition of the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour and is based on a 1979 longitudinal study of young people.

In total, Kane looked at 1,580 mother-daughter pairs, focusing on their weight at birth, marital status and education level.

“The odds of having a low-birth-weight baby were one and a half to two times greater for mothers who themselves were born low birth weight compared to mothers who were not born low birth weight,” she said.

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Kane’s work shows that key factors can be traced to the mother’s own early life experiences, in addition to factors dating back multiple generations. She says that this can be used to tackle low birth weights.

“This really makes a difference in how we think about planning future population-level policies or programs that intend to reduce social inequalities in birth weight,” she said.

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