Facts of the Matter -- Mothers
Tre Madré (Three Mothers), by Bryce Brown, New Zealand, B. 1971
A mother’s influence on her children’s health and well-being begins before delivery. Daughters of mothers who are overweight before pregnancy are up to six times more likely to be obese by the age of 18. After delivery, a mother’s nutrition and eating patterns are predictors of her daughter’s likelihood of becoming overweight.
- Daughters of mothers who smoke tobacco while pregnant are four times more likely to smoke, and both daughters and sons of women who smoke while pregnant are at an increased risk of behavioral problems.
- Mothers who breast-feed their infants provide their children with immunities to diarrheal diseases, respiratory and ear infections, and skin disorders. Breast-fed children also have lower rates of adult-onset high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
- Mothers who give birth before the age of 20 are more likely to have children who also become young mothers, a trend that declines as a daughter’s education level rises.
- Worldwide, the education level of parents, particularly mothers, influences the probability that children will attend school. The likelihood of children staying in school increases with the years of education that their parents attain.
- In developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, mothers’ education – even at low levels – is associated with reductions in child mortality. Mothers’ schooling is associated with a greater likelihood of prenatal care, childbirth assistance from trained health care providers, and postnatal provision of childhood vaccinations and medical care.
- Children whose mothers read aloud to them are more likely to develop the skills and knowledge that influence written and oral language abilities.
- There is some evidence that suggests a mother’s literacy level is associated with children’s health. In a study in Guatemala, increased maternal literacy was associated with lower rates of respiratory illnesses among four-year-olds.
- The United Nations estimates that worldwide, at least one in every three women will be abused in their lifetime. Women in safe, non-abusive relationships have children with a lower risk of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, alcohol abuse, smoking, suicide, depression, and later-life medical problems such as heart, lung, and liver diseases.
- Mothers who participate in activities with their children, convey expectations for school performance, and are present when their children wake up in the morning, arrive from school, or go to sleep reduce the likelihood of their children’s involvement in violent behaviors such as fighting, carrying a weapon, stealing, bullying, and homicide.
- Mothers whose daughters view them as positive role models influence their daughters’ confidence. Daughters who aspire to emulate their mothers develop stronger self-esteem and a more positive body image than girls who don’t identify with their moms.