Mother’s poverty when growing up influence’s her child’s respiratory health

Published Online: June 27, 2011

Childhood asthma has its roots prenatally, and maternal socioeconomic status (SES) during pregnancy and the child’s first years contribute to observed disparities. However, effects on the next generation may also be influenced by health disparities rooted in a mother’s own childhood SES.

In an upcoming issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Sternthal et al., provide the first empiric evidence that mothers experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage in their own childhood were more likely to have children with elevated IgE at birth and repeated wheeze up to age 2 years. Pathways linking maternal early life poverty to risk in the next generation were also examined. Path analysis suggested growing up with lower SES was associated with lower maternal educational attainment, which, in turn, was associated with more adverse environmental exposures during the index pregnancy including greater psychological stress and higher traffic-related air pollution.

Finally, higher prenatal maternal stress and air pollution were independently associated with increased risk of recurrent wheeze in these urban children. These data demonstrate that early childhood experiences related to social disadvantage affects respiratory disease risk in the next generation, heightening the need for interventions aimed at breaking the cycle of childhood poverty.


The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is the official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

AAAAI - American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology