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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Early-life neighborhood context, perceived stress, and preterm birth in African American Women.

  • Author(s): Sealy-Jefferson, Shawnita
  • Mustafaa, Faheemah N
  • Misra, Dawn P
  • et al.

Stressors from multiple sources, across the life-course, may have independent and joint associations with preterm birth (PTB) risk in African American women. Using data from the Life-course Influences on Fetal Environments Study (LIFE; 2009-2011) of post-partum African American women from Metropolitan Detroit, Michigan (n=1365), we examined the association between perceived stress and PTB, and effect modification by perceptions of early-life neighborhood social control and disorder. We defined PTB as birth before 37 completed weeks of gestation. We used Cohen's Perceived Stress scale, and valid and reliable scales of early-life (age 10) neighborhood social control and social disorder to quantify exposures. We estimated prevalence ratios (PR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) with log binomial regression models- with separate interaction terms for perceived stress and each early-life neighborhood scale. We considered p < 0.10 significant for interaction terms. PTB occurred in 16.4% (n=224) of the study participants. In the total sample, perceived stress was not associated with PTB rates. However, there was suggestive evidence of a joint association between perceived stress and early-life neighborhood social disorder (p for interaction = 0.06), such that among women who reported high early-life neighborhood social disorder (n=660), perceived stress was positively associated with PTB (adjusted PR: 1.31; 95% CI: 1.05, 1.63). There was no association between perceived stress and PTB for women in the low early-life neighborhood social disorder strata (n=651) (adjusted PR: 0.95, 95% CI: 0.75, 1.21). There was no evidence that early-life neighborhood social control modified the association between perceived stress and PTB. Our results suggest that early-life neighborhood stressors may magnify the association between current perceived stress and PTB rates, in African American women. More research to confirm and explicate the biologic and/or psychosocial mechanisms of the reported association is warranted.

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