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Dietary inequalities of mother–child pairs in the rural Amazon: Evidence of maternal-child buffering?


  • Piperata, Barbara A.
  • Schmeer, Kammi K.
  • Hadley, Craig
  • Ritchie-Ewing, Genevieve


This paper explores the expected outcome of maternal nutritional “buffering,” namely that children's diets will be more adequate than mothers' diets under conditions of food scarcity. Data on Amazonian mothers and their children, household demography and economics and direct, weighed measures of household food availability and dietary intakes of mother–child pairs were collected from 51 households to address the following research questions: (1) is there evidence of food scarcity in this setting?; (2) are there differences in energy and protein adequacy between children and their mothers?; and, (3) which individual and household-level factors are associated with these mother–child differences in energy and protein adequacy? In this context of food scarcity, we found that the majority of children had more adequate energy (p < 0.001) and protein (p < 0.001) intakes than their mothers. Multivariate OLS regression models showed that of the individual-level factors, child age and height-for-age were negatively associated with maternal-child energy and protein inequalities while maternal reproductive status (lactation) was positively associated with energy inequality. While there were no gender differences in dietary adequacy among children, boys had a larger advantage over their mothers in terms of protein adequacy than girls. Household food availability was related to maternal-child energy and protein inequalities in a curvilinear fashion with the lowest inequalities found in households with extremely low food availability and those with adequate food resources. This is the first study to quantify maternal-child dietary inequalities in a setting of food scarcity and demonstrates the importance of the household context and individual characteristics in understanding the degree to which mothers protect their children from resource scarcity.

Suggested Citation

  • Piperata, Barbara A. & Schmeer, Kammi K. & Hadley, Craig & Ritchie-Ewing, Genevieve, 2013. "Dietary inequalities of mother–child pairs in the rural Amazon: Evidence of maternal-child buffering?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 183-191.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:96:y:2013:i:c:p:183-191
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.07.024

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Engle, Patrice L. & Nieves, Isabel, 1993. "Intra-household food distribution among Guatemalan families in a supplementary feeding program: Behavior patterns," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 1605-1612, June.
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    4. Hampshire, Katherine Rebecca & Panter-Brick, Catherine & Kilpatrick, Kate & Casiday, Rachel E., 2009. "Saving lives, preserving livelihoods: Understanding risk, decision-making and child health in a food crisis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(4), pages 758-765, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christophe Béné & Derek Headey & Lawrence Haddad & Klaus Grebmer, 2016. "Is resilience a useful concept in the context of food security and nutrition programmes? Some conceptual and practical considerations," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, vol. 8(1), pages 123-138, February.


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