Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Ike S. Okosun

Second Advisor

Dr. Carol J. Thurman


Background: Low birth weight (LBW) is a public health issue in the United States and around the globe. Although Low birth weight is an important predictor of subsequent health outcomes, the role of maternal age as a LBW risk factor is poorly understood. Determining whether or not maternal age is a risk factor for low birth weight can help reduce the incidence of LBW and maximize the health of offspring.

Objective: This study examined the association between young mothers and LBW risk in a representative sample of Non-Hispanic Whites, Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanic American women. Factors such as mother’s age, smoking status, level of education, income, and marital status were evaluated to assess their associations with LBW outcome.

Methodology: The selected study factors were analyzed using SPSS version 20. Data were obtained from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Young mothers were defined as females between the ages of 14 and19 years old that have a baby. A live born infant weighing less than 2,500 grams was considered to have LBW. Frequencies for the selected factors were created. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were also run to examine the association between young motherhood and LBW adjusting for maternal age, smoking, education, income and marital status.

Results: There was no statistically significant association between young mothers and LBW in Non-Hispanic Whites (OR=.51; 95% CI=.12-2.13), Non-Hispanic Blacks (OR=.21; 95% CI=.03-1.59), and Hispanic Americans (OR=1.48; 95% CI=.74-2.97) women, after adjusting for maternal age, smoking, education, income and marital status.

Conclusion: Although, the results of this study indicating the lack of association between young mothers and LBW is consistent with findings by some investigators (Reichman et al., 1997), there are several studies that have reported contrary results (Okosun et al., 2000). In light of these mixed findings, further research is necessary to examine the impact of young mothers on adverse birth outcomes, including, LBW.