Is there a female disadvantage in child undernutrition in South India? Exploring gender differences in height in infancy, childhood, and adolescence in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

Aditi Krishna, Juhwan Oh, Jessica M. Perkins, Hwa Young Lee, Jongho Heo, Jong Koo Lee, S. V. Subramanian

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2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate whether gender-based disparities in health and well-being extend to a female disadvantage in height in infancy, childhood, and adolescence in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Methods: Using longitudinal data from the Young Lives study in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, India, linear mixed effects and linear regression models examined associations between gender and height and the modifying influences of birth order and older siblings’ gender composition. Results: In the younger cohort, at 6-18 months, girls were 0.17-SDs of height for age z-scores (HAZ) taller than boys (P =.01). In the same cohort, the girls’ advantage in HAZ was attenuated to 0.02 (P =.58) by 11-12 years. In the older cohort, the difference in HAZ between girls and boys was 0.04 (P =.61) at the beginning of the study when they were 7-8 years old; by 18-19 years of age, the difference had switched, with boys being 0.22-SD (P =.05) taller. There was no difference by birth order except in the younger cohort in which children with 2 or more siblings experienced height deficits compared with only children at 7-8 and 11-12 years. There was no differential effect of gender by birth order nor by the gender composition of siblings. Conclusion: A female disadvantage in undernutrition, as manifest in differences between girls and boys in HAZ, did not appear until later ages. Identifying how and why gendered disparities in standardized height emerge in late adolescence will help target more resources to improve conditions for girls and women in south India.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23153
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Volume31
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

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