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Culture and Population: Laurie DeRose and Sangeetha Madhavan

Family Instability and Early Childhood Health in the Developing World
When Mar 12, 2015
from 02:00 PM to 03:00 PM
Where 2101C Morrill Hall
Contact Name
Contact Phone 301-405-1166
Attendees Laurie DeRose
Jennifer Guida
Catherine Kuhns
Yoonjoo Lee
Sangeetha Madhavan
Tyler Myroniuk
Cristian Sanchez
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Laurie DeRose

Research on improving children’s health in lower-income countries has focused on financial resources, women’s education, and public health interventions, largely overlooking the ways in which family structure may shape children’s health. We use Demographic and Health Survey data to explore the relationship between family instability—measured by divorce or dissolution of a cohabiting partnership, widowhood, or forming a new partnership—and children’s health in a wide variety of societies. We find family instability is associated with higher levels of diarrhea (N=244,792), poor growth (N=182,416), and child mortality (N=7,984,813 person-months) in Central/South America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia, but not in higher income countries in and around the Middle East. Our work also shows that unlike in Europe and North America, single mothers in lower-income countries are more likely to be socioeconomically advantaged than disadvantaged.

See the paper Dr. DeRose will be drawing on for this event

Sangeetha Madhavan

Dr. Madhavan will present preliminary findings from pilot research that she has recently initiated in Nairobi, Kenya. This project, funded by NIH, is aimed at developing and testing a new survey instrument to collect data on kinship support for young children of single mothers living in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. These children are disadvantaged by their precarious environment, characterised by lack of sanitation, limited health care facilities, congested and low-quality housing, and wide-spread unemployment and poverty. Children born in the slums of Nairobi are significantly more likely to die than children in the rest of Kenya. Moreover, high rates of premarital childbirth, union dissolution, and adult mortality result in a large proportion of children who are raised by single mothers. As in most African contexts, however, these single mothers are assumed to receive considerable economic support and childcare assistance from their residential and non-residential extended kin. However, kinship support is potentially declining due to three processes under way in many African contexts: 1) increased distance between children and extended kin due to high rates of female migration, particularly to informal settlements in urban locations; 2) pervasive poverty which limits the ability of kin to provide support; and 3) transformation of views on marriage, women’s roles, and family norms, with a greater reliance on conjugal bonds than kinship ties. As a result, we hypothesizes that there might be enormous variation in the type and amount of kinship support that children of poor, urban, single mothers receive which, in turn, could put their health and well-being at risk. The instrument that we are developing is meant to improve on conventional household based surveys by collecting detailed data on all kin as well as data on the quantity and quality of support provided by kin and non-kin. We incorporate GIS analysis techniques and interactive maps to better understand the role of geo-spatial factors in determining support provision.

Please note that, at the present time, Morrill Hall is not accessible for handicapped individuals.

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