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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Maternal health literacy and physical fitness in early motherhood, child motor development, and home affordances Dickson, Danika Brooke


Health literacy and health-related physical fitness are important variables affecting health across one’s lifespan. Importantly, certain lifespan periods are more vulnerable to changes in health behaviour than others. Due to lifestyle changes and the perception of increased barriers to exercise, regaining pre-pregnancy fitness levels is often difficult. To-date, little is known regarding health literacy and physical fitness in the early years of motherhood. Therefore, the first purpose was to examine differences in health-related physical fitness of health literate mothers with children between the ages of 18 to 36 months compared to health literate non-mothers. In addition, little is known about the influence of health literacy and the home affordances that mothers may provide. As such, the second purpose was to examine whether health literate mothers provide environments with greater opportunities for child development (vs. mothers with low literacy). Sixteen mothers (31.9±3.8y) with a child between the age of 18 and 36 mo and 15 childless women (28.6±5.1y) completed a health literacy battery (Newest Vital Sign (NVS), Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM), Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults (TOFHLA)), the Canadian Physical Activity, Fitness, and Lifestyle Approach (CPAFLA), and a physical activity questionnaire. Mothers also completed an Affordances of the Home Environment Motor Development (AHEMD) assessment. Sixteen toddlers (31±6mo) were assessed for motor development using the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, 2nd Edition (PDMS-2). Results showed that all women demonstrated high health literacy levels. Non-mothers demonstrated greater health related physical fitness for push-ups (p=.009), partial curl-ups (p=.007), and vertical jump (p=.033) vs. mothers. In contrast, mothers performed significantly better on grip strength (p=.043). There was a trend between higher reading scores (REALM) with greater total variety of stimulation (r(15)=0.73, p=0.060) in the home environment. Increased variety of stimulation was positively correlated with locomotion (r(15)=0.88, p=0.008), object manipulation (r(15)=0.95, p=0.001), and visual-motor integration (r(15)=0.85, p=0.015) scores (PDMS-2). Despite similar health literacy levels, non-mothers demonstrated greater physical fitness; while mothers exhibited fitness levels associated with suboptimal health. Health literate mothers are more likely to expose their children to an environment that leads to greater proficiency on motor development tests.

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