IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Maternal education and child survival in developing countries: The search for pathways of influence


  • Cleland, John G.
  • van Ginneken, Jerome K.


During the past two decades a considerable amount of information has become available from developing countries showing that maternal education has a strong impact on infant and child mortality. On average each one-year increment in mother's education corresponds with a 7-9% decline in under-5s' mortality. Education exercises a stronger influence in early and later childhood than in infancy. The central theme of this paper is to assess the various mechanisms or intervening factors which could explain how mother's education influences the health and survivorship of her children. Two of the possible intervening variables, namely reproductive health patterns and more equitable treatment of sons and daughters, play a relatively minor role in the explanation of the relationship. Economic advantages associated with education (i.e. income, water and latrine facilities, housing quality, etc.) account for about one-half of the overall education-mortality relationship. The influence of use of preventive and curative health services as a group of intervening variables is complex and variable. There are countries whose primary health services are so weak that they have no effect on the health of mothers and children; there are also other countries whose health services may tend to accentuate educational disparities because of differential access. Little is known about the intervering role of health beliefs and domestic practices, but it is hypothesized that they are important in the explanation of the education-mortality relationship. Finally, suggestions for specific studies on mechanisms or intervening factors are made and the relevance of such studies for formulation of health and educational policies is stressed.

Suggested Citation

  • Cleland, John G. & van Ginneken, Jerome K., 1988. "Maternal education and child survival in developing countries: The search for pathways of influence," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 27(12), pages 1357-1368, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:27:y:1988:i:12:p:1357-1368

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:27:y:1988:i:12:p:1357-1368. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no bibliographic references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Catherine Liu (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.