On the Home Front: Stress and Adverse Birth Outcomes for Military Families

Christina M. Gibson-Davis, Duke University
Heather M. Rackin, Duke University
Geeta Swamy, Duke University

This study investigates whether the rate of adverse birth outcomes increased for mothers affiliated with the military from the time before and throughout the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Data come from the North Carolina Detailed Birth Record Database, a record of live births that occurred between 1996 and 2006. Using regression models and controlling for a number of confounding factors, we find that for both blacks and whites, military mothers were significantly less likely than civilian mothers to have a low birth weight birth in 1996. By 2006, this gap for whites had disappeared completely, and for blacks, the probabilities of a low birth weight birth were actually higher for military as compared to civilian mothers. A similar pattern of effects was not found for preterm births. We hypothesize that the stress associated with the recent wars may account for the increased probability of adverse birth outcomes for military mothers.

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Presented in Session 19: Social Contexts and Child Health