Maternal social and pyschological conditions and physical growth in low-income children in Piauí, Northeast Brazil

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Journal Article
Social Science and Medicine, 2007, 64 (2), pp. 375 - 388
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Prevalence of child undernutrition remains high in many developing countries. In settings with scarce resources, modifiable maternal social conditions may influence feeding and parenting practices, in turn affecting child growth. This study aims to quantify the association between maternal social support and depression to children's physical growth outcomes in Teresina, Piauí, northeast Brazil. Interviews were conducted with a random sample of 595 mothers of children 6-24 months old in four low-income sections of Teresina, Piauí. We collected data on sociodemographic factors, mothers' social support, mothers' depressive symptomatology, and child's weight and recumbent length. Weight-for-height z-scores (WHZ), height-for-age z-scores (HAZ) and weight-for-age z-scores (WAZ) were calculated using the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Center SAS program based on the 2000 Centers for Disease Control reference growth curves. Multivariable linear regression was used to model the association between maternal social support and depression to child growth, adjusting for biological and socio-demographic variables. Interviewer and neighborhood variation was accounted for through the inclusion of random effects. In adjusted models, material support, measured by number of friends or family members available to mothers when needing food or milk, was related to 0.3 higher average WHZ and 0.2 higher average WAZ in their children. Maternal positive social interaction, which reflects engagement in leisure-time activities with others, was associated with 0.3 higher average WHZ. Mothers' affectionate support was related to 0.2 higher average children's WHZ and WAZ, whereas social support for resolving a conflict was associated with 0.2 lower average HAZ. Maternal depression was not associated with child growth. It is concluded that inadequate growth in children may be sensitive to maternal social support. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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