Back to browse results
The association of parental education with childhood undernutrition in low- and middle-income countries: comparing the role of paternal and maternal education
Authors: Sebastian Vollmer, Christian Bommer, Aditi Krishna, Kenneth Harttgen, and SV Subramanian
Source: International Journal of Epidemiology, First published online: August 8, 2016; doi: 10.1093/ije/dyw133
Topic(s): Child health
Country: More than one region
  Multiple Regions
Published: AUG 2016
Abstract: Background: Most existing research on the association of parental education with childhood undernutrition focuses on maternal education and often ignores paternal education. We systematically investigate differences in maternal and paternal education and their association with childhood undernutrition. Methods: One hundred and eighty Demographic and Health Surveys from 62 countries performed between 1990 and 2014 were analysed. We used linear-probability models to predict childhood undernutrition prevalences, measured as stunting, underweight and wasting, for all combinations of maternal and paternal attainment in school. Models were adjusted for demographic and socio-economic covariates for the child, mother and household, country-level fixed effects and clustering. Additional specifications adjust for local area characteristics instead of country fixed effects. Results: Both higher maternal and paternal education levels are associated with lower childhood undernutrition. In regressions adjusted for child age and sex as well as country-level fixed effects, the association is stronger for maternal education than for paternal education when their combined level of education is held constant. In the fully adjusted models, the observed differences in predicted undernutrition prevalences are strongly attenuated, suggesting a similar importance of maternal and paternal education. These findings are confirmed by the analysis of composite schooling indicators. Conclusions: We find that paternal education is similarly important for reducing childhood undernutrition as maternal education and should therefore receive increased attention in the literature.