just pretend you care about this really fascinating research

Last week I presented my research in the Mary Lou Foulton Conference. I use the word presented loosely, because I hung up my poster in the Sociology section, went to class and came back to stand by it until lunch.

Let me just talk about how #soblessed I am for all I've learned in my sociology major -- its like my ignorant mind and heart has been made aware of so many issues going on in the world, that I had no idea about.

So... what did I study. For the past two semesters, I have studied how the influence of women's empowerment affects child stunting in Bangladesh.

What is child stunting? It means your height is two standard deviations below the average height for your age, determined by the World's Health Organization. In other words, you are extremely short for your age.

Why does this matter? Child stunting ISN'T a lack of tall genes from your parents, rather, a child is stunted from malnutrition. This is an irreversible condition that can affect a child's cognitive development. Think about how generations and generations of stunting can affect a society, a people, a nation. In Bangladesh, 41% of children are stunted. Thats almost half the children growing up with developmental issues, and if stunting isn't treated within the first two years, there is no hope of reversing the effects.

Why Bangladesh? When I started learning more about the World Health Organization, and the United Nations Millennium Goals -- they have 8 goals they are focusing on, and my motivation came from three of their goals: 1) improve maternal health 2) reduce child mortality 3) gender equality.
Bangladesh is a male dominant society, meaning there is a lot of gender inequality when it comes to education, occupations, and opportunities. How many times have you asked your husband, "Can I buy some lettuce from the grocery store?" Probably never. Many women in Bangladesh aren't allowed to make any purchases, visit family, or have any say in regards to their health care without their husbands permission and opinion. Many women are beat if they burn food or refuse sex, just to say a few. I am no feminist, but no women should be that discriminated in any part of this world. I want gender equality to exist so much in Bangladesh so that every woman has the opportunity to go to school, rather than being forced to marry at age 10 or 12. As a child bride they are "sold" as a transaction to someone so the bride's parents can earn money to buy a car for their son. Its completely unacceptable.

How was I going to study this? I looked at how all these variables make a child more or less likely to be stunted. . .

Mother's Education, Literacy rates, decision making ability, age, currently working.

Paternal Education, literacy, current age, and occupation

Total number of children under 5 in the household, total number of people in the house, the child's birth order number, their water source, whether they shared a toilet facility with another household.

The age and sex of child, and the wealth index.

What are the results?
  • Children are 50% less likely to be stunted if their mothers receive a secondary education. This makes sense because when a mother is educated, they have more autonomy to seek out birth attendants, or to give birth in a birth center. When mothers are educated, it means they've stayed in school longer, so their bodies can biologically develop. When mothers are educated, they are more likely to marry an educated man (and more education is NEVER a bad thing). When mothers are educated, they are able to read food labels and prepare more nutritious meals for their family. Education was a huge predictor in the chances of their children NOT being stunted. 
  • The older the mother, the less likely their child would be stunted. This too make sense. As mentioned previously, child brides are giving birth before their bodies have fully developed. Mothers that are older allow their bodies more time to develop and are able to provide nutrition to a growing baby. This statistic was extremely significant, meaning, we are 99% sure age of mother can reduce child stunting. 
  • I hypothesized that the more autonomy a mother had, the less likely her children would be stunted. So if she had a say in visiting her relatives, making purchases, or decisions about her health care, then she was considered to have a "high decision making ability". However, contrary to what I thought, mothers with more autonomy, didn't influence their children from being less likely to be stunted. 
  • Children of working mothers are 9% more likely to be stunted than those who's mothers aren't working. I found this odd, and not what I expected. Generally, in America, families of both working parents seem more well off due to the fact they are bringing in two incomes. This doesn't hold true to situations when the family is extremely poor, and both parents are working out of necessity. Which is most likely the case in Bangladesh. As mentioned previously, Bangladesh is a male-dominant society, so no matter what the job a woman has (and it won't be anything above a blue-collar job), she will be paid significantly less than her male counterparts. In Bangladesh, when a mother is the primary care giver and is working -- it means the children are probably spending their time at home, alone, resulting in eating whatever they can find. It also adds greater stress upon the mother, which makes her less likely to provide nutritious meals for the family, as well. 
  • I wanted to branch out to other factors that could make a child more or less likely to be stunted, so I analyzed the fathers. After analyzing the different occupational positions, I found that no matter what job you held (agricultural worker, semi-skilled labor, home business, etc), every paternal job made children more likely to be stunted, except for those who's fathers were a professional worker. That is a lot of children being effected. 
  • Lastly, one of the greatest indicators in preventing child stunting was the wealth index. Therefore, the richer you were, the less likely you were to be stunted. Which, sociologically makes sense-- we see this in any part of the world. Those that are wealthier, can afford to live in more urban areas--which means higher levels of sanitation and more resources available to them, they probably didn't have to share a toilet facility with another household (35% of children share a toilet with another household -- great indicator of poverty), they had a clean water source, they could afford to pay for more nutritious food, and their father probably had more education to get a better job. 
I am absolutely fascinated with this research... and wish I was in Bangladesh helping to eliminate all gender inequality, help more women obtain an education, and reverse child stunting!


  1. Well...I haven't read the entire post, but let me just say, I'm impressed and very proud of you! Congrats!!!


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