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Maternal experiences of racial discrimination and child weight status in the first 3 years of life

  • B. Dixon (a1), S. L. Rifas-Shiman (a1), T. James-Todd (a2), K. Ertel (a3), N. Krieger (a3), K. P. Kleinman (a1), J. W. Rich-Edwards (a2), M. W. Gillman (a1) (a4) and E. M. Taveras (a1) (a5)...


Among US racial/ethnic minority women, we examined associations between maternal experiences of racial discrimination and child growth in the first 3 years of life. We analyzed data from Project Viva, a pre-birth cohort study. We restricted analyses to 539 mother–infant pairs; 294 were Black, 127 Hispanic, 110 Asian and 8 from additional racial/ethnic groups. During pregnancy, mothers completed the Experiences of Discrimination survey that measured lifetime experiences of racial discrimination in diverse domains. We categorized responses as 0, 1–2 or ⩾3 domains. Main outcomes were birth weight for gestational age z-score; weight for age (WFA) z-score at 6 months of age; and at 3 years of age, body mass index (BMI) z-score. In multivariable analyses, we adjusted for maternal race/ethnicity, nativity, education, age, pre-pregnancy BMI, household income and child sex and age. Among this cohort of mostly (58.2%) US-born and economically non-impoverished mothers, 33% reported 0 domains of discrimination, 33% reported discrimination in 1–2 domains and 35% reported discrimination in ⩾3 domains. Compared with children whose mothers reported no discrimination, those whose mothers reported ⩾3 domains had lower birth weight for gestational age z-score (β −0.25; 95% CI: −0.45, −0.04), lower 6 month WFA z-score (β −0.34; 95% CI: −0.65, −0.03) and lower 3-year BMI z-score (β −0.33; 95% CI: −0.66, 0.00). In conclusion, we found that among this cohort of US racial/ethnic minority women, mothers’ report of experiencing lifetime discrimination in ⩾ 3 domains was associated with lower fetal growth, weight at 6 months and 3-year BMI among their offspring.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr E. M. Taveras, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, 133 Brookline Avenue, 6th floor, Boston, MA 02215, USA. Email


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