The social context of children's nutritional status in rural South Africa

Type Journal Article - Scandinavian Journal of Public Health
Title The social context of children's nutritional status in rural South Africa
Issue 35
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2007
Page numbers 107-117
Aim: To investigate the relationship between children’s nutritional status and a series of measures capturing both the current status and the lifetime history of their connection with adult caregivers in the Agincourt sub-district of rural South Africa. Methods: Using data on a sample of 202 children from a recent ethnographic study of children’s social connections and well-being, the authors (1) compare height for age and weight for age to an accepted international standard and (2) conduct bivariate analyses of the relationships between selected measures of social connection and extreme deviations below expected weight and expected height. Results: Fitted curves for weight for age and height for age fall between the 5th and 50th percentiles of CDC growth curves. Compromised nutrition, defined as being more than two standard deviations below expected height or weight, is associated with the death or non-co-residence of the mother, and with the absence of financial support from the father. The co-residence of maternal female kin as substitutes for the mother do not fully compensate for her absence. Conclusions: The findings highlight the importance of parental living arrangements, parental financial support, birth order and the composition of sibling sets, and lifetime residential patterns in facilitating access to nutrition.

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