No fathers' names: a risk factor for infant mortality in the State of Georgia, USA

Soc Sci Med. 1999 Jan;48(2):253-65. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(98)00342-6.


Many studies have explored maternal and infant factors as risks for infant mortality, but little attention is given to paternal factors. In Georgia, listing a father's name on the birth certificate is optional for married couples and possible after paternal acknowledgment for unmarried couples. The authors evaluated father's name reporting as a paternity measure and risk for infant mortality. Using the linked 1989-1990 birth and death certificates of singleton Georgia infants to calculate relative risks (RRs), infant mortality rates for 38,943 infants with no father's names listed were compared to rates for 178,100 with father's names listed. Compared with the rate for married women listing names, the death rates were higher for unmarried mothers not listing fathers (relative risk, RR = 2.5; 95% CI 2.3-2.7), unmarried mothers listing fathers (RR = 1.4; 95% CI 1.3-1.6), and married women not listing fathers (RR = 2.3; 95% CI 1.6-3.1). Increased risks remained after stratifying by maternal race, age, adequacy of prenatal care and medical risks; and congenital malformations, birthweight, gestational age, and small-for-gestational age. Using logistic regression to examine for effect modification and to adjust for these factors together, the adjusted relative risks for death varied across different groups without fathers' names, regardless of marital status. For example, it remained statistically higher for infants with no father listed and without effect-modifying conditions such as low birthweight (estimated RR = 2.0; 95% CI 1.6-2.4). Although these findings suggest paternal involvement, as measured by listing fathers' names, is protective against low birthweight and infant mortality, further evaluation is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Certificates*
  • Female
  • Georgia / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Logistic Models
  • Marital Status
  • Paternity*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors