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Health Policy Educ. 1982 Mar;2(3-4):251-67.

Influence of maternal education on infant and child mortality: levels and causes.


Data from the World Fertility Survey in ten Third World countries are used to test the conclusion, based on a Nigerian study, that material education is important in reducing child mortality. The analysis confirms the major importance of parental education, the impact of which is probably greater than both income factors and access to health facilities combined. Rural/urban differentials are of small importance once parental education has been controlled. The findings of the Nigerian study are modified in that paternal education is also shown to be important, though not as important as maternal education, and the step from primary to secondary schooling is more important than that from illiteracy to primary schooling. The massive declines in child mortality during the last third of a century have been the result not only of technological and economic change but also of social change, of which the most important component for the survival of children through the first years of life has been parental education. It is suggested that schooling introduces parents to a global culture of largely Western origin and loosens their ties to traditional cultures. Age and sex differentiations in power, decision-making and benefits within the larger family are reduced when schooling brings about a new family system in which women and children are allocated higher priorities in terms of care and allocation of food and in which parents can make decisions about health and child care without reference to their elders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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