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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2017 May;26(5):442-449. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2016.5789. Epub 2017 Jan 27.

The Association Between Maternal Early Life Forced Sexual Intercourse and Offspring Birth Weight: The Role of Socioeconomic Status.

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1 School of Social Work, University of Washington , Seattle, Washington.
2 Department of Sociology, University of Washington , Seattle, Washington.



This study utilizes a life-course framework to investigate whether maternal early life forced sexual intercourse operates in conjunction with health behaviors during adolescence, young adulthood, and the prenatal period to influence offspring birth weight.


Using data from the 1994-2009 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), we examined whether early life forced sexual intercourse predicted offspring birth weight through a mediated pathway, including depressive symptoms, substance use, and prenatal cigarette smoking. We stratify our analysis by socioeconomic status (SES) to determine whether the proposed pathways operate similarly, or differently, according to SES.


Our findings suggest that the pathways through which forced sexual intercourse affects offspring birth weight differ by SES. Among middle-to-high SES women, we found a mediated pathway linking forced sexual intercourse to offspring birth weight with prenatal cigarette smoking predicting lower offspring birth weight. Among low SES women, however, we did not find a mediated pathway linking forced sexual intercourse to birth weight. Findings suggest that prenatal cigarette smoking was not a mechanism of influence in the pathway between maternal early life forced sexual intercourse and offspring birth weight for low SES women.


Our findings suggest that forced sexual intercourse may influence infant birth weight in the next generation. Infants born with a low birth weight are at increased risk for a myriad of adverse outcomes across the life-course. Study results suggest the importance of interventions designed to reduce behavioral risks and to support health promoting behaviors among survivors in the short term, in an effort to prevent long-term consequences among later-born offspring.


birth weight; depressive symptoms; forced sexual intercourse; prenatal smoking; socioeconomic status; substance use

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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