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Developing Health Lifestyle Pathways and Social Inequalities Across Early Childhood


Mollborn, Stefanie; Lawrence, Elizabeth M.; & Krueger, Patrick M. (Online ahead of print). Developing Health Lifestyle Pathways and Social Inequalities Across Early Childhood. Population Research and Policy Review.


Lifestyles are a long-theorized aspect of social inequalities that root individual behaviors in social group differences. Although the health lifestyle construct is an important advance for understanding social inequalities and health behaviors, research has not theorized or investigated the longitudinal development of health lifestyles from infancy through the transition to school. This study documented children’s longitudinal health lifestyle pathways, articulated and tested a theoretical framework of health lifestyle development in early life, and assessed associations with kindergarten cognition, socioemotional behavior, and health. Latent class analyses identified health lifestyle pathways using the US Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort (ECLS-B; N ≈ 6550). Children’s health lifestyle pathways were complex, combining healthier and unhealthier behaviors and changing with age. Social background prior to birth was associated with health lifestyle pathways, as were parents’ resources, health behaviors, and nonhealth-focused parenting. Developing health lifestyle pathways were related to kindergarten cognition, behavior, and health net of social background and other parent influences. Thus, family context is important for the development of complex health lifestyle pathways across early childhood, which have implications for school preparedness and thus for social inequalities and well-being throughout life. Developing health lifestyles both reflect and reproduce social inequalities across generations.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Article Type


Year Published

Online ahead of print

Journal Title

Population Research and Policy Review


Mollborn, Stefanie
Lawrence, Elizabeth M.
Krueger, Patrick M.

Data Set/Study

US Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth Cohort (ECLS-B)


United States of America