A Critical Examination of Acculturation: The Impact of Health Behaviors, Social Support and Economic Resources on Birth Weight among Women of Mexican Descent1


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    The Detroit portion of this study was conducted while Dr. Weigers was at the University of Michigan and was supported through grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholars in Health Policy Research Program, and was conducted through the Detroit Community Academic Prevention Research Center funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Epidemiology Program Office. The Chicago portion of the study was supported through grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the University of Missouri, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. This work would not have been possible without the contributions of Rosanna Barrera, who helped with fieldwork in Chicago, J. Ricardo Guzman, Executive Director of Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS) in Detroit, and the women in Chicago and Detroit who so generously shared their lives with us. We also wish to acknowledge the valuable contributions of Patrick Ball, Paula Lanz and the anonymous reviewers.


Although recent theoretical work points to the multidimensional character of acculturation, empirical studies often fail to operationalize the concept in ways that capture the complexity. This study uses data from indepth interviews with 58 pregnant and recently postpartum women of Mexican descent to demonstrate that prior studies examining acculturation and low birth weight have focused too much on negative health behaviors and too little on social support and access to resources. The analysis also demonstrates the importance of examining social change in sending and receiving communities by addressing the starting point for acculturation and the forces for acculturation in immigrants' lives.