Correlates of early child development among children with stunting: A cross-sectional study in Uganda

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Fulltext

    Final published version, 1.07 MB, PDF document

Many children in low- and middle-income countries are not attaining their developmental potential. Stunting is associated with poor child development, but it is not known which correlates of stunting are impairing child development. We explored potential socioeconomic, nutritional, clinical, and household correlates of early child development among 12-59-month-old children with stunting in a cross-sectional study in Uganda. Development was assessed using the Malawi Development Assessment Tool (MDAT) across four domains of gross and fine motor, language, and social skills. Linear regression analysis was used to assess correlates of development in the four domains and total MDAT score. Of 750 children included, the median [interquartile range] age was 30 [23-41] months, 55% of the children resided in rural settings with 21% from female-headed households and 47% of mothers had no schooling. The mean ± standard deviation height-for-age z-score (HAZ) was -3.02 ± 0.74, 40% of the children had a positive malaria test and 65% were anaemic (haemoglobin < 110 g/L). One-third had children's books at home, majority (96%) used household objects to play with and most of them (70%) used toys as pretence items like those to mimic cooking. After age, sex, and site adjustments, HAZ (0.24, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.14-0.33) and head circumference (0.07, 95% CI: 0.02-0.12) were positive correlates of total MDAT score, whereas weight-for-height z-score (WHZ) was not. Current breastfeeding was associated with 0.41 (95% CI: 0.17-0.65) lower total MDAT score. Children from households with a single income earner had 0.22 (95% CI: 0.06-0.37) lower total MDAT score. Furthermore, severe food insecurity, inflammation and positive malaria test were associated with lower scores for motor development. All family care indicator subscales (FCIs) positively correlated with the total MDAT score and this association was independent of household's socioeconomic status. In conclusion, stunting degree, head circumference, number of household income earners and stimulation by improved FCIs correlate with early child development among stunted children. The negative association with prolonged breastfeeding is likely due to reverse causality. Identified correlates may inform initiatives to support children with stunting attain their development potential.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13619
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number2
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

© 2024 The Authors. Maternal & Child Nutrition published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

ID: 387071490