Domestic violence and child nutrition in Liberia
Domestic violence against women is endemic globally and is an important social problem in its own right. A compounding concern is the impact of domestic violence against mothers on the nutritional status of their children. Liberia is an apt setting to examine this understudied topic, given the poor nutritional status of young children, high rate of domestic violence against women, and prolonged period of conflict that included systematic sexual violence against women. We expected that maternal exposure to domestic violence would predict lower anthropometric z-scores and higher odds of stunting, wasting, and underweight in children less than five years. Using data from 2467 mother-child dyads in the 2007 Liberia Demographic and Health Survey (LDHS) undertaken between December 24, 2006 and April 19, 2007, we conducted descriptive and multivariate analyses to examine the total, unadjusted and adjusted associations of maternal exposure to domestic violence with these anthropometric measures in children. Maternal reports of sexual domestic violence in the prior year predicted lower adjusted z-scores for height-for-age and weight-for-height as well as higher odds of stunting and underweight. The findings underscore the needs to (1) enhance and enforce conventional and customary laws to prevent the occurrence of domestic violence; (2) treat maternal survivors of domestic violence and screen their children for nutritional deficits; (3) heighten awareness of the intergenerational implications especially of recent sexual domestic violence; and (4) clarify the biological and behavior pathways by which domestic violence may influence child growth, thereby mitigating early growth failure and its adverse implications into adulthood.
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Volume (Year): 74 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
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