Poverty and InequalitySexual and Reproductive HealthFamily, Maternal & Child HealthMethodology

Women, smoking, and social disadvantage over the life course: a longitudinal study of African American women

TitleWomen, smoking, and social disadvantage over the life course: a longitudinal study of African American women
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsEnsminger, ME, Smith, KC, Juon, HS, Pearson, JL, Robertson, JA
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Volume104 Suppl 1
Date PublishedOct 1
ISBN Number1879-0046; 0376-8716
Accession Number19616387
KeywordsAdolescent, Adult, African Americans/education/psychology, Age Factors, Child, Cohort Studies, Female, Humans, Life Style, longevity, Longitudinal Studies, Prospective Studies, Sex Factors, Smoking/economics/epidemiology/psychology, Social Environment, Socioeconomic Factors, Vulnerable Populations/psychology, Women's Health/economics, Young Adult

We compare life course characteristics of a cohort of African American women (N=457) by their smoking status at age 42: never smoker (34.1%), former smoker (27.8%), or current smoker (38.1%). The Woodlawn population from which our sample is drawn has been followed from first grade (1966-67) to mid adulthood (2002-3) and is a cohort of children from a disadvantaged Chicago community. Examination of the effects of cumulative disadvantage on smoking behavior showed that nearly half of women who first lived in poverty as children, dropped out of school, became teen mothers, and were poor as young adults currently smoked; less than 22% of women with none of these difficulties were current smokers. Regression analyses focusing on smoking and evidence of social disadvantage in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood showed that women with more education were much less likely to be current smokers. Women reporting low parental supervision in adolescence and less frequent church attendance in young adulthood and those whose mothers' reported regular smoking were significantly more likely to be current smokers. Poverty and marital status in young adulthood varied significantly among smoking categories in bivariate relationships, but not in final multivariate regression models. Few other studies have examined smoking careers with data from age 6-42, comparing social disadvantage characteristics over the life course. While marital status, church involvement and parental supervision are not usually included as measures of socioeconomic status, they represent advantages in terms of social capital and should be considered mechanisms for transmitting disparities.