Indian child brides’ kids risk malnutrition more, says study

January 22nd, 2010 - 6:46 pm ICT by IANS  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Jan 22 (IANS) Babies born to child brides in India have a higher risk of malnutrition than those born to adult mothers, according to research published Friday.

The study by researchers from Boston University, published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), found that 67 percent of babies born to child brides in India were malnourished, a condition that is linked to child deaths.

India has the highest number of under-five deaths in the world, with 2.1 million such children dying in 2006 alone.

Such deaths have previously been linked to early motherhood, which can lead to neonatal death, stillbirth, low birthweight of infants, and deaths of children under the age of five years.

Nearly half of all 20-24 year-olds in India are married before the age of 18, and 22 percent of the same age group give birth by the time they reach 18.

Researchers led by Prof Anita Raj of Boston University studied data from nearly 125,000 Indian girls and women and 19,000 births in the last five years.

Their study shows that the overwhelming majority of babies - 73 percent - were born to child brides, or girls under the age of 18.

Among the currently living children, 67 percent were malnourished - they were either underweight or suffering from wasted or stunted growth.

“In view of previous evidence that child brides often are more controlled by husbands and in-laws, it may be that women married as minors are unable to advocate for adequate nutrition for their children,” the authors said.

Prof. Raj said the findings showed the importance of delayed childbearing among adolescent wives.

“They also reveal the need for targeted intervention efforts to support children born to mothers married as minors, who may be more vulnerable to nutritional deprivation than others in the family,” she said.

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