Open Access Research article

Partner support in a cohort of African American families and its influence on pregnancy outcomes and prenatal health behaviors

Jennifer K Straughen1, Cleopatra H Caldwell2, Alford A Young34 and Dawn P Misra1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences, Division of Population Health Sciences, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA

2 Program for Research on Black Americans, Institute for Social Research Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

3 Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

4 Department of Sociology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013, 13:187  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-187

Published: 17 October 2013



We examined how two indicators of partner involvement, relationship type and paternal support, influenced the risk of pregnancy outcomes (preterm birth, low birth weight) and health behaviors (prenatal care, drug use, and smoking) among African American women.


Interview and medical record data were obtained from a study of 713 adult African American women delivering singletons between March 2001 and July 2004. Women were enrolled prenatally if they received care at one of three Johns Hopkins Medical Institution (JHMI) prenatal clinics or post-partum if they delivered at JHMI with late, no or intermittent prenatal care. Relationship type was classified as married, unmarried/cohabitating, or unmarried/non-cohabitating. Partner support was assessed using an 8-item scale and was dichotomized at the median. Differences in partner support by pregnancy outcome and health behaviors were assessed using linear regression. To assess measures of partner support as predictors of adverse pregnancy outcomes and health behaviors, Poisson regression was used to generate crude and adjusted prevalence ratios (PR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).


There were no statistically significant differences in pregnancy outcomes or health behaviors by relationship type or when partner support was examined as a continuous or categorical variable. Modeled as a dichotomous variable, partner support was not associated with the risk of preterm birth (PR = 0.81, 95% CI = 0.56, 1.56), low birth weight (PR = 0.77, 96% CI = 0.48, 1.26), or health behaviors.


Paternal involvement was not associated with pregnancy outcomes or maternal health behaviors. Attention to measurement issues and other factors relevant for African American women are discussed.

Race/ethnicity; Paternal support; Preterm birth; Low birth weight; Maternal health behaviors