Logo of yjbmLink to Publisher's site
Yale J Biol Med. 1997 Mar-Apr; 70(2): 149–160.
PMCID: PMC2589065

A case-control study of maternal knowledge of malnutrition and health-care-seeking attitudes in rural South India.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION: In India, approximately 20 percent of children under the age of four suffer from severe malnutrition, while half of all the children suffer from undernutrition. The contributions of knowledge and attitudes of nutrition-conscious behaviors of the mothers to childhood malnutrition has been unclear. The purpose of this study was to explore maternal knowledge of the causes of malnutrition, health-care-seeking attitudes and socioeconomic risk factors in relation to children's nutritional status in rural south India. METHODS: A case-controlled study was conducted in a rural area in Tamil Nadu, India. Thirty-four cases and 34 controls were selected from the population of approximately 97,000 by using the local hospital's list of young children. A case was defined as a mother of a severely malnourished child under four years of age. Severe malnutrition was defined as having less than 60 percent of expected median weight-for-age. A control had a well-nourished child and was matched by the location and the age of the child. Interviews obtained: (1) socioeconomic information on the family, (2) knowledge of the cause of malnutrition and (3) health-care-seeking attitudes for common childhood illnesses, including malnutrition. RESULTS: Poor nutritional status was associated with socioeconomic variables such as sex of the child and father's occupation. Female gender (OR = 3.44, p = .02) and father's occupation as a laborer (OR = 2.98, p = .05) were significant risk factors for severe malnutrition. The two groups showed a significant difference in nutrition-related knowledge of mild mixed malnutrition (OR = 2.62, p = .05). No significant difference was apparent in health-care-seeking attitudes. Based on their traditional beliefs, the mothers did not believe that medical care was an appropriate intervention for childhood illnesses such as malnutrition or measles. DISCUSSION: The results suggested that the gender of the child and socioeconomic factors were stronger risk factors for malnutrition than health-care availability and health-care-seeking attitudes. The father's occupation was a more accurate indicator for malnutrition than household income. These results suggest a need for intensive nutritional programs targeted toward poor female children and their mothers.

Full text

Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (1.3M), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Gupta MC, Mehrotra M, Arora S, Saran M. Relation of childhood malnutrition to parental education and mothers' nutrition related KAP. Indian J Pediatr. 1991 Mar-Apr;58(2):269–274. [PubMed]
  • Bhat IA, Shah GN, Dhar GM, Mehnaz S. A study on the impact of maternal knowledge and practice on the nutritional status of infants. Indian J Matern Child Health. 1992 Jan-Mar;3(1):12–15. [PubMed]
  • Nichter M. Cultural interpretations of states of malnutrition among children: a South Indian case study. Med Anthropol. 1985 Winter;9(1):25–48. [PubMed]
  • Sivaramakrishnan M, Patel VL. Reasoning about childhood nutritional deficiencies by mothers in rural India: a cognitive analysis. Soc Sci Med. 1993 Oct;37(7):937–952. [PubMed]
  • Scheper-Hughes N. Infant mortality and infant care: cultural and economic constraints on nurturing in northeast Brazil. Soc Sci Med. 1984;19(5):535–546. [PubMed]
  • Miller BD. Opportunity knocks. Indian J Matern Child Health. 1990 Oct-Dec;1(4):101–103. [PubMed]
  • Thomson A. Why are potential women being killed? Midwifery. 1993 Dec;9(4):181–182. [PubMed]
  • Kumarbabu G. Societal attitudes to girl child -- leading to abuse and infanticide. Innovative interaction for change. ICCW J. 1993 Jul-Dec;2(2-3):49–52. [PubMed]
  • Basu AM. How pervasive are sex differentials in childhood nutritional levels in south Asia? Soc Biol. 1993 Spring-Summer;40(1-2):25–37. [PubMed]
  • Mull DS. Traditional perceptions of marasmus in Pakistan. Soc Sci Med. 1991;32(2):175–191. [PubMed]

Articles from The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine are provided here courtesy of Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine

Formats:

Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...

Links

  • MedGen
    MedGen
    Related information in MedGen
  • PubMed
    PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...