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Soc Biol. 1994 Fall-Winter;41(3-4):168-80.

Birth spacing, breastfeeding, and early child mortality in a traditional Indian society: a hazards model analysis.

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  • 1Department of Sociology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA.


There are few studies of the interrelationships among breastfeeding, child spacing, and child mortality in traditional societies that incorporate extensive controls for social and demographic characteristics of the mother and child. In this paper, we investigate the impact of breastfeeding and the length of the preceding birth interval on early child mortality (defined as a death in the first two years of life) using data from a traditional society of India. Multivariate hazards models are used to analyze the data. Most prior analyses related the impact of breastfeeding duration to the duration of child survivability by taking breastfeeding as a fixed covariate. The present study has a methodological focus in the sense that breastfeeding information from retrospective survey data is treated as a time-dependent covariate both as a status variate as well as a duration--with empirical findings compared across the two specifications. The effects of postpartum amenorrhoea and various other demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of mother and child are also studied. The results suggest that breastfeeding duration has a strong impact in reducing the relative risk of early child mortality; but it does not explain the effect of the length of the preceding birth interval on early child mortality.

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