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Differential Influences of Early Growth and Social Factors on Young Children’s Cognitive Performance in Four Low-and-Middle-Income Birth Cohorts (Brazil, Guatemala, Philippines, and South Africa)

Citation

Richter, Linda M.; Orkin, F. Mark; Adair, Linda S.; Kroker-Lobos, Maria Fernanda; Mayol, Nanette L.; Menezes, Ana M.; Martorell, Reynaldo; Murray, Joseph; Stein, Aryeh D.; & Victora, Cesar G. (2020). Differential Influences of Early Growth and Social Factors on Young Children's Cognitive Performance in Four Low-and-Middle-Income Birth Cohorts (Brazil, Guatemala, Philippines, and South Africa). SSM - Population Health, 12, 100648. PMCID: PMC7486449

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Studies relating childhood cognitive development to poor linear growth seldom take adequate account of social conditions related to both, leading to a focus on nutrition interventions. We aimed to assess the roles of both biological and social conditions in determining early childhood cognition, mediated by birthweight and early linear growth.
METHODS: After exploratory structural equation modelling to identify determining factors, we tested direct and indirect paths to cognitive performance through birthweight and child height-for-age at 2 years, assessed between 4 and 8.5 years of age among 2448 children in four birth cohort studies in low-and-middle-income countries (Brazil, Guatemala, Philippines and South Africa). Determinants were compared across the cohorts.
FINDINGS: Three factors yielded excellent fit, comprising birth endowment (primarily maternal age and birth order), household resources (crowding, dependency) and parental capacity (parental education). We estimated their strength together with maternal height in determining cognitive performance. Percentage shares of total effects of the four determinants show a marked transition from mainly biological determinants of birth weight (birth endowment 34%) and maternal height (30%) compared to household resources (25%) and parental capacity (11%), through largely economic determinants of height at 2 years (household resources (60%) to cognitive performance being predominantly determined by parental capacity (64%) followed by household resources (29%). The largely biological factor, birth endowment (maternal age and birth order) contributed only 7% to childhood cognitive performance and maternal height was insignificant. In summary, the combined share of social total effects (household resources and parental capacity) rises from 36∙2% on birth weight, to 78∙2% on height for age at 24 m, and 93∙4% on cognitive functioning.
INTERPRETATION: Across four low- and middle-income contexts, cognition in childhood is influenced more by the parental capacity of families and their economic resources than by birth weight and early linear growth. Improving children's cognitive functioning requires multi-sectoral interventions to improve parental education and enhance their economic wellbeing, interventions that are known to improve also early childhood growth.

URL

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2020.100648

Reference Type

Journal Article

Article Type

Regular

Year Published

2020

Journal Title

SSM - Population Health

Author(s)

Richter, Linda M.
Orkin, F. Mark
Adair, Linda S.
Kroker-Lobos, Maria Fernanda
Mayol, Nanette L.
Menezes, Ana M.
Martorell, Reynaldo
Murray, Joseph
Stein, Aryeh D.
Victora, Cesar G.

PMCID

PMC7486449

Continent/Country

LMICs
Brazil
Guatemala
Philippines
South Africa