Impact of maternal education on the growth of children in a patriarchy
Keywords:Bengali Hindu caste, HAZ, BAZ, social-economic-political-emotional environment, patriarchy
Aim: To assess the association of father’s education and occupation with children growth measured by height-for-age z-scores and BMI-for-age z-scores in a patriarchal culture where father’s social position is considered more important than mother’s social position.
Sample and methods: The present cross-sectional study consists of 387 school-going girls aged 9-14 years residing in Matigara, Siliguri sub-division of Darjeeling district, West Bengal, India. Information on age, mother’s education, father’s education, ethnic affiliation, mother’s occupation, father’s occupation, house type, household monthly income and family size were recorded. Associations between variables were assessed using Spearman correlation, St. Nicolas house analysis (SNHA), and one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with box plots.
Results: The hypothesis that in a patriarchy paternal socio-economic status (SES) influences children growth more than maternal SES was not supported. The observed correlation between mother education and measure of growth (BAZ and HAZ) was, 0.15 and 0.13, respectively. SNHA showed direct connection between HAZ of girls and mother education. Further, using ANOVA significant difference in the HAZ of adolescents was observed between least educated mothers and moderately educated mothers (F = 6.593; p < 0.01). No such difference between the maternal education levels was observed for BAZ.
Conclusion: Maternal education is an important factor influencing children linear growth even in a patriarchy. The association was independent of nutrition. Common explanations are functional literacy, decision making, access to information and health infrastructure, and less domestic violence. Mother’s education may influence perceived future prospects of the daughters, and could be an important stimulus for growth.
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