The Southeast Asian island nation of East Timor has higher rates of child malnutrition than neighboring countries, posing a public health challenge. A research group led by Professor Michiyo Higuchi from Nagoya City University's Graduate School of Nursing found that mothers who completely reject violence from their partners are more likely to provide appropriate meals to their children. This finding is a rare demonstration of the association between attitudes towards violence and proper child nutrition using the dataset from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) conducted collaboratively by governments and research institutions worldwide. The findings were published in BMC Women's Health.
The research group obtained the 2016 East Timor DHS dataset of 7,221 children and analyzed the relations between 'proper child nutrition' and mothers' 'attitudes towards partner violence' among 1,854 pairs of mothers and their children aged 6 to 23 months.
'Proper nutrition' was determined based on the number of food groups and the frequency of meals according to the child's age, based on WHO guidelines, using responses about the food given to the child the day before the survey. Only 15% of the children received the appropriate number of food groups and meal frequency. In the East Timor version of the DHS, there were five scenarios regarding 'partner violence.' In all five scenarios, 17.5% of mothers agreed to the statement, 'I believe that violence by men against women is avoidable' and did not condone violence by their partner under any circumstances. These mothers had a statistically significantly higher likelihood (odds) of providing appropriate meals than mothers who did not reject violence in at least one of the situations. In addition, factors such as whether the mother worked outside the home and the household wealth index were also associated with proper child nutrition. At the same time, no statistical associations were observed for other factors like the mother's age, education, frequency of TV viewing, number of prenatal checkups, nor whether they lived in urban or rural areas.
Secondary analyses using DHS data from various countries have found associations between mothers' experiences of partner violence and childcare methods or child nutrition. However, few studies have analyzed the relation between attitudes toward partner violence and childcare methods.
Negative attitudes towards violence, working outside the home, and household wealth are all related to women's empowerment. It is worth noting that factors related to empowerment, rather than the number of prenatal checkups often targeted in developing countries, were associated with 'proper nutrition', an essential aspect of childcare, even after removing the effects of age and education. While enhancing prenatal care is essential for childcare and child nutrition, the findings suggest that a mother's confidence in living her life and, consequently, a society that nurtures such children are also essential.
This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd. (https://sci-news.co.jp/). Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.