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Child feeding and stunting prevalence in left-behind children: a descriptive analysis of data from a central and western Chinese population


  • Lu Ban

    () (University of Nottingham)

  • Sufang Guo

    () (UNICEF China)

  • Robert W. Scherpbier

    (UNICEF China)

  • Xiaoli Wang

    (Peking University)

  • Hong Zhou

    (Peking University)

  • Laila J. Tata

    (University of Nottingham)


Abstract Objectives To examine the effect of parental rural-to-urban internal migration on nutritional status of left-behind children and how this is related to guardianship. Methods We used UNICEF China’s maternal and child health survey data to investigate stunting prevalence and feeding practices in children left behind by rural-to-urban internal migrant parents. We also assessed the effects of primary guardianship which is related closely with parental migration. Results Of 6136 children aged 0–3 years, over one-third was left behind by one or both parents. About 13 % were left behind by mothers, leaving guardianship primarily to grandmothers. Left-behind status was not associated with stunting, yet children who were cared for primarily by their fathers had a 32 % increase of stunting compared to children cared for by the mothers [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.32; 95 % confidence interval = 1.04–1.67]. Children with migrant mothers were less likely to receive age-appropriate breastfeeding (aOR = 0.04;0.02–0.10) and a minimum acceptable diet (aOR = 0.56;0.39–0.79) compared with non-left-behind children. Conclusions Guardian’s feeding behaviours varied, and was inappropriate for both children affected and not affected by parent’s rural-to-urban internal migration. Community-based infant and young child feeding counselling and support should be provided to all caregivers.

Suggested Citation

  • Lu Ban & Sufang Guo & Robert W. Scherpbier & Xiaoli Wang & Hong Zhou & Laila J. Tata, 2017. "Child feeding and stunting prevalence in left-behind children: a descriptive analysis of data from a central and western Chinese population," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 62(1), pages 143-151, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:ijphth:v:62:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s00038-016-0844-6
    DOI: 10.1007/s00038-016-0844-6

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Liang, Zai & Chen, Yiu Por, 2004. "Migration and Gender in China: An Origin-Destination Linked Approach," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(2), pages 423-443, January.
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