Being born to a stunted and adolescent mother is linked with persistent disadvantage in terms of children’s development
Our analysis shows that children of adolescent stunted mothers were at higher risk of being stunted and underweight themselves and had lower scores on quantitative achievement tests than children whose mothers gave birth to them after adolescence and were not undernourished. In the case of stunting and underweight, these differences persist through adolescence and after controlling for a range of factors. Children born to a stunted adolescent mother were 15 percentage points more likely to be stunted and 11 percentage points more likely to be underweight at age 1 year than children born to a non-stunted mother who gave birth after adolescence. These effects persist at similar size through age 8 and 12 years.
In the case of quantitative achievement, the differences persist through adolescence, but once other factors are accounted for they are dramatically reduced. This partly suggests that factors such as socioeconomic circumstances, linked with maternal undernutrition and early pregnancy can explain the observed link between these maternal circumstances and children’s development. Nevertheless, another explanation could relate to the nature of the sample, as the majority of mothers identified as giving birth in adolescence were 17 to 19 years old, and so we don’t rule out that being born to much younger mothers has significant negative consequences for child development.