Does maternal willingness to get pregnant determine childhood stunting? Evidence from Young Lives India.

Neha Adsul, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
Rohit Shah, IITB-Monash Research Academy

Introduction: India has a long tradition of constructive family welfare promotion. Nevertheless, the contraceptive choice is limited, and the unmet need for family planning remains high. This is seen among the age groups of 15–19 years and 20–24 years (27.1 and 22.1% respectively). Mother-child interactions during early life shape foundational neural circuits; neglect and maltreatment associated with the child being unwanted or unintended can undermine the child’s physical and cognitive development resulting in compromised later life outcomes. Objective: This research aims to examine the effect of pregnancy intention on early childhood stunting in India. Methods: We used secondary longitudinal data from all four waves (2002-2014) of the Young Lives (YL) India younger cohort. This survey collects information on child welfare outcomes, including the mother’s intent to getting pregnant, nutritional status, growth, physical health, cognitive development, to name a few. Multivariate linear regression model was used to examine the association between unintended births and childhood stunting. Results: The research provides evidence of an association between childhood stunting and unintended births. Although this important finding is not statistically significant, it has huge implications for bettering the unmet needs of women in the reproductive age group to target the reduction in childhood stunting among children in India.

Keywords: Demographic and social surveys, Policy evaluation, Family planning and contraception

See extended abstract.

  Presented in Session 21. What Affects Child Health: Perspectives from India