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Prenatal and Postnatal Mother-to-Child Transmission of Acculturation's Health Effects in Hispanic Americans



Hispanic Americans consistently exhibit an intergenerational increase in the prevalence of many noncommunicable chronic physical and mental disorders.


We review and synthesize evidence suggesting that a constellation of prenatal and postnatal factors may play crucial roles in explaining this trend. We draw from relevant literature across several disciplines, including epidemiology, anthropology, psychology, medicine (obstetrics, neonatology), and developmental biology.


Our resulting model is based on evidence that among women, the process of postmigration cultural adjustment (i.e., acculturation) is associated, during pregnancy and after delivery, with psychological and behavioral states that can affect offspring development in ways that may alter susceptibility to noncommunicable chronic disease risk in subsequent-generation Hispanic Americans. We propose one integrated process model that specifies the biological, behavioral, psychological, and sociocultural pathways by which maternal acculturation may influence the child's long-term health. We synthesize evidence from previous studies to describe how acculturation among Hispanic American mothers is associated with alterations to the same biobehavioral systems known to participate in the processes of prenatal and postnatal developmental programming of disease risk. In this manner, we focus on the concepts of biological and cultural mother-to-child transmission across the prenatal and postnatal life phases. We critique and draw from previous hypotheses that have sought to explain this phenomenon (of declining health across generations). We offer recommendations for examining the transgenerational effects of acculturation.


A life course model with a greater focus on maternal health and well-being may be key to understanding transgenerational epidemiological trends in minority populations, and interventions that promote women's wellness may contribute to the elimination or reduction of health disparities.

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