A Child’s “Strong Start” in Life

WASHINGTON, DC—A strong start in life is critical for children, and it’s not just a matter of good medical care. Although available research doesn’t support many causal conclusions, numerous studies identify varied elements of a mother’s circumstances before and during pregnancy that are associated with a strong start.

Factors associated with positive outcomes for a child include:

  • The mother’s physical and mental health,
  • The mother’s receipt of prenatal care and advice on healthy behaviors,
  • The mother’s health-related behaviors, such as not smoking, drinking, or using drugs,
  • Absence of material hardship or poverty, healthy, non-violent couple relationship and marriage, as well as other social support,
  • Higher parental educational attainment, and
  • A pregnancy that is wanted and intended.

While not all elements need to be present for a child to benefit, these circumstances can cumulate to enhance a child’s outcomes.

This research was made possible through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Population Affairs (OPA).

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