Nutritional status and cognitive performance of mother-child pairs in Sidama, Southern Ethiopia

Matern Child Nutr. 2013 Apr;9(2):274-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00345.x. Epub 2011 Aug 2.


The purpose of this study was to assess the nutritional status and cognitive performance of women and their 5-year-old children using a cross-sectional design. Cognitive performance of mothers and children was assessed with Raven's Colored Progressive Matrices (CPM) and Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children-II (KABC-II). Demographic characteristics, food consumption patterns and anthropometry were also measured. Four rural districts in Sidama, southern Ethiopia served as the setting for this study. Subjects were one hundred women and their 5-year-old children. Mean ± standard deviation age of the mothers was 29 ± 6 years and family size was 7.0 ± 2.6. Maternal body mass index (BMI) ranged from 15.3 to 29.0 with 14% of the mothers having BMI < 18.5. Anthropometric assessment of children revealed 29% to be stunted (height-for-age z-score < -2) and 12% to be underweight (weight-for-age z-score < -2). Mothers' education significantly contributed to prediction of both mothers' and children's cognitive test scores. There were significant differences in mean cognitive test scores between stunted and non-stunted, and between underweight and normal-weight children. Height-for-age z-scores were correlated with scores for short-term memory (r = 0.42, P < 0.001), and visual processing (r = 0.42, P < 0.001) indices and weight-for-age z-scores were also correlated with scores of short-term memory (r = 0.41, P < 0.001) and visual processing (r = 0.43, P < 0.001) indices. Malnutrition in the community likely contributed to the cognitive performance of the subjects. Performance on memory and visual processing tasks was significantly lower in children with growth deficits suggesting that efficient and cost effective methods to alleviate malnutrition and food insecurity would impact not only child health but also cognitive function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Educational Status
  • Ethiopia
  • Family Characteristics
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / metabolism*
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Mothers
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Rural Population
  • Young Adult