Targeting maternal lifestyle to impact birthweight and subsequent developmental disabilities

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Keith Scott - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Marygrace Yale-Kaiser - Committee Member


The goal of this investigation was to identify the most efficacious route to reduce low birthweight's effects on developmental disabilities. Linked birth certificate and school databases of 238,779 children who were born in Florida and who were enrolled in fourth through sixth grade during the 2001/2002 school year were examined. A novel statistical method, the sequential population attributable fraction (PAF%), allowed for the partitioning of the PAF% to isolate the impact that maternal lifestyle had on the effect of birthweight on developmental outcomes. The sequential PAF%s were compared to one another to determine which of the maternal lifestyle factors were contributing the most to the effect of birthweight on developmental disabilities. This is a desirable result when officials are interested in where best to apply their efforts toward reducing low birthweight.This study demonstrated that, low maternal education, tobacco use during pregnancy and inadequate prenatal care increased the chance of mothers giving birth to low birthweight infants. Furthermore, the cost of low birthweight to the individual and to society was extended in to the school years as low birthweight was a significant predictor of developmental disabilities. Even though, each of the maternal lifestyle factors studied contributed to the effect that birthweight had on developmental disabilities, maternal education was the lifestyle factor which if targeted for intervention could have the greatest impact on low birthweight and subsequent developmental disabilities.


Psychology, Developmental; Health Sciences, Human Development

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