Author(s): Reed BA, Habicht JP, Niameogo C, Reed BA, Habicht JP, Niameogo C, Reed BA, Habicht JP, Niameogo C, Reed BA, Habicht JP, Niameogo C
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Previous studies have shown an inconsistency in the association between maternal education and child nutritional status across socioeconomic levels. This may be because the beneficial effects of education are only significant when resources are sufficient but not abundant. METHODS: Associations were examined for differences across socioeconomic levels using data collected from 41 rural communities of Benin for 435 children aged 13-36 months. Village level indicators of household wealth were used together with child z-scores to partition the sample into three levels of socio-environment relative to conditions more or less conducive to child growth. RESULTS: Using an interactive linear regression model it was shown that for the population of children of women who had no more than 4 years of formal schooling, the association of maternal education and child weight differed significantly across the socio-environment. The relationship was flat and non-significant in the lowest socio-environment, positive and significant (P < 0.05) in intermediate conditions, and weakly positive under the best socio-environment conditions. Among children of mothers attaining higher levels of education, an unexpected negative association was found. It could be that maternal education had enabled women to participate in activities outside the home without simultaneously ensuring adequate child care. PIP: To clarify the inconsistent findings of earlier studies of the association between maternal education and child nutritional status, data collected on 435 children 13-36 months of age from 41 rural communities in Benin were analyzed. It was hypothesized that maternal education would exert a stronger effect in households of intermediate socioeconomic status, where formal education would equip mothers to make decisions about the allocation of limited resources, than in villages where resources were either inadequate or overabundant. Socio-environmental rankings of village wealth were used to divide the sample into three socioeconomic categories. As hypothesized, a significant (p 0.01) linear relationship between maternal education and child weight-for-age existed only in the middle socioeconomic group. Overall, child nutritional status showed a general improvement up to the Level 3 category (3-4 years) of maternal education, then declined in Levels 4 and 5 (highest). It is speculated that the decline in nutritional status observed among children of the most educated mothers reflects the tendency of these women to be employed, with child care responsibilities allocated to an older sibling. Needed are studies that identify the factors in well-educated mothers' lives that compromise their ability to use that education to advance the health of their children.
This article was published in Int J Epidemiol
and referenced in Journal of Nutritional Disorders & Therapy