Intergenerational Social Networks and Health Behaviors Among Children Living in Public Housing

Published in: American Journal of Public Health, 2015

Posted on RAND.org on September 25, 2015

by Alene Kennedy-Hendricks, Heather L. Schwartz, Rachel Johnson Thornton, Beth Ann Griffin, Hank Green, David P. Kennedy, Susan Burkhauser, Craig Pollack

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OBJECTIVES: In a survey of families living in public housing, we investigated whether caretakers' social networks are linked with children's health status. METHODS: In 2011, 209 children and their caretakers living in public housing in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland, were surveyed regarding their health and social networks. We used logistic regression models to examine the associations between the perceived health composition of caretaker social networks and corresponding child health characteristics (e.g., exercise, diet). RESULTS: With each 10% increase in the proportion of the caretaker's social network that exercised regularly, the child's odds of exercising increased by 34% (adjusted odds ratio = 1.34; 95% confidence interval = 1.07, 1.69) after the caretaker's own exercise behavior and the composition of the child's peer network had been taken into account. Although children's overweight or obese status was associated with caretakers' social networks, the results were no longer significant after adjustment for caretakers' own weight status. CONCLUSIONS: We found that caretaker social networks are independently associated with certain aspects of child health, suggesting the importance of the broader social environment for low-income children's health.

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