Maternal Undernutrition and Childbearing in Adolescence and Offspring Growth and Development: Is Adolescence a Critical Window for Interventions Against Stunting?

Maternal undernutrition and adolescent childbearing are prevalent in poorer countries and have harmful consequences for children

Abstract

Maternal undernutrition and adolescent childbearing are prevalent in low- and middle-income countries and have harmful consequences for children. However, less is known on whether these implications persist throughout the offspring’s life course. Moreover, although adult nutritional status has been suggested to largely reflect conditions during the period from conception to 2 years old (“the first 1,000 days”), others have argued that adolescence is an equally important period for nutrition. This is not well established, however, and there is less evidence on the relative importance of conditions during the first 1,000 days of a girl’s life, versus during adolescence, for her nutritional status during pregnancy.

This working paper addresses these gaps through 2 interrelated investigations. First, we document associations of mothers’ stunting and adolescent childbearing with their children’s developmental outcomes from infancy through early adolescence, using data on a cohort of children and their mothers from Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam. Second, in order to infer whether maternal adult undernutrition may reflect undernutrition during adolescence, we use data from another cohort of girls in each of these countries who were surveyed throughout adolescence to estimate the extent of catch-up growth during adolescence.

Young Lives is an international study of childhood poverty, following the lives of 12,000 children in 4 countries (Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam) over 15 years. Young Lives is funded by the UK Department for International Development.

Citation

Benny, Liza, Paul Dornan and Andreas Georgiadis (2017) Maternal Undernutrition and Childbearing in Adolescence and Offspring Growth and Development: Is Adolescence a Critical Window for Interventions Against Stunting? Young Lives Working Paper 165. Oxford: Young Lives

Maternal Undernutrition and Childbearing in Adolescence and Offspring Growth and Development: Is Adolescence a Critical Window for Interventions Against Stunting?

Published 1 February 2017