Racial and Ethnic Differences in Maternal Social Support and Relationship to Mother-Infant Health Behaviors

Acad Pediatr. 2022 Nov-Dec;22(8):1429-1436. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2022.02.008. Epub 2022 Feb 25.


Objective: To examine racial and ethnic differences in maternal social support in infancy and the relationship between social support and mother-infant health behaviors.

Methods: Secondary analysis of baseline data from a multisite obesity prevention trial that enrolled mothers and their 2-month-old infants. Behavioral and social support data were collected via questionnaire. We used modified Poisson regression to determine association between health behaviors and financial and emotional social support, adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics.

Results: Eight hundred and twenty-six mother-infant dyads (27.3% non-Hispanic Black, 18.0% Non-Hispanic White, 50.1% Hispanic and 4.6% Non-Hispanic Other). Half of mothers were born in the United States; 87% were Medicaid-insured. There were no racial/ethnic differences in social support controlling for maternal nativity. US-born mothers were more likely to have emotional and financial support (rate ratio [RR] 1.14 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.07, 1.21 and RR 1.23 95% CI: 1.11, 1.37, respectively) versus mothers born outside the United States. Mothers with financial support were less likely to exclusively feed with breast milk (RR 0.62; 95% CI: 0.45, 0.87) yet more likely to have tummy time ≥12min (RR 1.28; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.59) versus mothers without financial support. Mothers with emotional support were less likely to report feeding with breast milk (RR 0.82; 95% CI: 0.69, 0.97) versus mothers without emotional support.

Conclusions: Nativity, not race or ethnicity, is a significant determinant of maternal social support. Greater social support was not universally associated with healthy behaviors. Interventions may wish to consider the complex nature of social support and population-specific social support needs.

Keywords: child obesity; nativity; race and ethnicity; social support.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mothers* / psychology
  • Social Support
  • United States