Objectives: To compare mothers of undernourished children with mothers of adequately nourished children on maternal depression, parenting self-esteem, social support and exposure to stressors and to determine if these variables are independently related to undernutrition and stimulation provided in the home after controlling for socio-economic status.
Design: A case control study.
Setting: Children and their mothers were recruited from 18 government health centres in the Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine parishes of Jamaica.
Subjects: One hundred and thirty-nine mothers of undernourished children (WAZ< or =-1.5z scores) aged 9 - 30 months and 71 mothers of adequately nourished children (WAZ > -1z scores) matched for sex and age group were enrolled into the study.
Results: Mothers of undernourished children came from poorer homes but had similar social support to mothers of adequately nourished children. They were more depressed, had lower levels of parenting self-esteem (both P<0.01), reported higher levels of economic stress (P<0.001) and provided a less stimulating home environment (P<0.05). However, after controlling for social background variables there was no independent relationship between either psychosocial function or home stimulation and nutritional status. Undernutrition was found to be mainly explained by economic factors. The mothers' self-esteem was independently associated with the level of stimulation provided to the child.
Conclusions: When caring for undernourished children attention should be paid to the psychosocial status of the mother as well as the physical condition of the child.
Sponsorship: Thrasher Research Fund; Campus Research and Publication Fund, UWI, Jamaica.