The effects of race, residence, and prenatal care on the relationship of maternal age to neonatal mortality

Am J Public Health. 1986 Dec;76(12):1416-21. doi: 10.2105/ajph.76.12.1416.


This population-based study explores whether excessive neonatal mortality rates (NMRs) among infants with teenage mothers are attributable to young maternal age or to a translation of environmental disadvantage into reproductive disadvantage. First births from the 1976-79 linked birth and infant death registers for three states are analyzed. The data set is sufficiently large (305,907 births) to measure maternal age in fine gradations while including several control variables in logit analyses. The associations of racial identification and prenatal care with low birthweight, short gestation, and neonatal mortality overshadow and confound the association between teenage and poor outcome. At every maternal age, higher NMRs are observed for Blacks compared to Whites. The hypothesis that excessive neonatal mortality among Blacks is due to the greater frequency of teenage childbearing among Blacks is refuted. Indeed, unlike White, Black primiparae above age 23 experience higher NMRs than most Black or White teenagers. These results suggest that teenage maternity is not the primary causal agent of all of the problems with which it is associated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans*
  • Birth Weight
  • Data Collection
  • European Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Maternal Age*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence*
  • Prenatal Care*
  • United States