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Maternal literacy and health behavior: a Nepalese case study


  • LeVine, Robert A.
  • LeVine, Sarah E.
  • Rowe, Meredith L.
  • Schnell-Anzola, Beatrice


This article addresses the question of whether literacy could be mediating the relationships of schooling to maternal health behavior in populations undergoing demographic transition. Recent studies in which literacy was directly assessed suggest a literacy pathway to demographic change. The literacy skills of 167 urban and rural mothers of school-aged children in Lalitpur District of the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal were assessed by tests of reading comprehension, academic language proficiency, health media skills and health narrative skill, as part of studies in the urban and rural communities that included a maternal interview and ethnographic fieldwork on the contexts of family life, health care and female schooling. Regression analysis of the data indicates the retention of literacy skills in adulthood and their influence on health behavior; ethnographic evidence shows that selective bias in school attainment does not account for the results. Further direct assessment studies are recommended.

Suggested Citation

  • LeVine, Robert A. & LeVine, Sarah E. & Rowe, Meredith L. & Schnell-Anzola, Beatrice, 2004. "Maternal literacy and health behavior: a Nepalese case study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(4), pages 863-877, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:58:y:2004:i:4:p:863-877

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    Cited by:

    1. Craig, Sienna R. & Adams, Lisa V. & Spielberg, Stephen P. & Campbell, Benjamin, 2009. "Pediatric therapeutics and medicine administration in resource-poor settings: A review of barriers and an agenda for interdisciplinary approaches to improving outcomes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(11), pages 1681-1690, December.
    2. repec:spr:demogr:v:54:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s13524-017-0608-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Blunch, Niels-Hugo, 2013. "Staying Alive: Adult Literacy Programs and Child Mortality in Rural Ghana," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 114-126.
    4. Kenneth Harttgen & Stephan Klasen & Mark Misselhorn, 2010. "Pro-Poor Progress in Education in Developing Countries?," Review of Economics and Institutions, UniversitĂ  di Perugia, vol. 1(1).
    5. Hannum, Emily & Buchmann, Claudia, 2005. "Global Educational Expansion and Socio-Economic Development: An Assessment of Findings from the Social Sciences," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 333-354, March.
    6. Emily Smith-Greenaway, 2013. "Maternal Reading Skills and Child Mortality in Nigeria: A Reassessment of Why Education Matters," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(5), pages 1551-1561, October.
    7. Guliani, Harminder & Sepehri, Ardeshir & Serieux, John, 2012. "What impact does contact with the prenatal care system have on women’s use of facility delivery? Evidence from low-income countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(12), pages 1882-1890.
    8. Smith-Greenaway, Emily, 2015. "Are literacy skills associated with young adults' health in Africa? Evidence from Malawi," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 124-133.
    9. repec:spr:ariqol:v:13:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11482-017-9503-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Smith-Greenaway, Emily, 2013. "Mothers' reading skills and child survival in Nigeria: Examining the relevance of mothers' decision-making power," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 152-160.


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