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Psychological Adaptation and Birth Outcomes: The Role of Personal Resources, Stress, and Sociocultural Context in Pregnancy


Prenatal psychosocial predictors of infant birth weight and length of gestation were investigated in a prospective study of 120 Hispanic and 110 White pregnant women. Hypotheses specifying that personal resources (mastery, self-esteem, optimism), prenatal stress (state and pregnancy anxiety), and sociocultural factors (income, education, ethnicity) would have different effects on birth outcomes were tested using structural equation modeling. Results confirmed that women with stronger resources had higher birth weight babies (beta = .21), whereas those reporting more stress had shorter gestations (beta = -.20). Resources were also associated with lower stress (beta = -.67), being married, being White, having higher income and education, and giving birth for the first time. There was no evidence that resources buffered the effects of stress. The importance of personal resources in pregnancy is highlighted along with implications for understanding the etiology of adverse birth outcomes.

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