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Social, biological, and programmatic factors linking adolescent pregnancy and early childhood undernutrition: a path analysis of India's 2016 National Family and Health Survey
Authors: Phuong Hong Nguyen, Samuel Scott, Sumanta Neupane, Lan Mai Tran, and Purnima Menon
Source: Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, Online first; DOI: 10.1016/S2352-4642(19)30110-5
Topic(s): Child health
Maternal health
Country: Asia
Published: MAY 2019
Abstract: Background Adolescent pregnancy and child undernutrition are major social and public health concerns. We aimed to examine associations between adolescent pregnancy and child undernutrition in India, where one in five adolescents live, and one in three of the world's stunted children. Methods Data were from India's fourth National Family Health Survey, 2015–16. Primiparous women aged 15–49 years who gave birth between 2010 and 2016 were classified on the basis of age at first birth: 10–19 years (adolescence), 20–24 years (young adulthood), and 25 years or older (adulthood). Primary outcomes were anthropometric measures of offspring undernutrition. Multivariable regression and structural equation models were used to understand the extent to which these measures were linked to adolescent pregnancy and the potential social, biological, and programmatic pathways. Findings Of the 60?096 women in the sample, 14?107 (25%) first gave birth during adolescence. Children born to adolescent mothers had lower Z scores for length or height-for-age (mean difference -0·53 SD), weight-for-age (–0·40 SD), and weight-for-length or height (–0·16 SD) than children born to adult mothers. Compared with adult mothers, adolescent mothers were shorter (–1·21 cm, 95% CI -1·78 to -0·65), more likely to be underweight (18 percentage points, 15–21) and anaemic (8 percentage points, 6–11), less likely to access health services (–4 to -15 percentage points), and had poorer complementary feeding practices (–3 to -9 percentage points). Adolescent mothers also had less education (–3·30 years, 95% CI -3·68 to -2·91), less bargaining power (–7 to -15 percentage points), and lived in poorer households (–0·66 SD, 96% CI -0·82 to -0·50) with poorer sanitation (–28 percentage points, -32 to -24). In the path analysis, these intermediate factors predicted child anthropometry, with the strongest links being mother's education (18%), socioeconomic status (13%), and weight (15%). Interpretation Children born to adolescent mothers are at risk of being undernourished. Adolescent pregnancy is related to child undernutrition through poor maternal nutritional status, lower education, less health service access, poor complementary feeding practices, and poor living conditions. Policies and programmes to delay pregnancy and promote women's rights could help break the intergenerational cycle of undernutrition through many routes. Funding Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through Partnerships and Opportunities to Strengthen and Harmonize Actions for Nutrition in India, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute.