Modeling the effects of maternal nutritional status and socioeconomic variables on the anthropometric and psychological indicators of Kenyan infants from age 0–6 months


  • Alok Bhargava

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Economics, University of Houston, Houston, Texas 77204-5882
    2. World Health Organization, CH-1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland
    • Department of Economics, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204-5882.
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This paper presents a comprehensive empirical analysis of the factors affecting growth and psychological development of over 100 infants from birth to age 6 months in the Embu region of Kenya. The analysis was divided into four parts. First, infants' birth weight, and length and head circumference as measured few days after birth, were modeled using multiple regression models. Maternal prepregnancy body mass index (BMI), gestation period, and parity were associated with infants' anthropometric measurements (P < 0.05). Second, the scores on seven clusters of the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale were explained by health and socioeconomic indicators. While the models had poor predictive power, the scores were comparable to those reported in the literature for Puerto Rican and African American infants. The third part of the analysis modeled infant growth between 1–6 months by analyzing longitudinal data on length, head circumference, and weight. Dynamic models were postulated for the effects of nutritional, socioeconomic, and environmental factors and morbidity on anthropometric variables. The results showed that infants' calcium intakes were positively associated with length (P < 0.05). Maternal BMI and hemoglobin concentration were positively associated with infant weight (P < 0.05); infant morbidity was negatively associated with weight (P < 0.05). Lastly, the infants' scores at 6 months on the Bayley Motor Scale and on eight items from the Bayley Infant Behavior Record were explained using anthropometric, socioeconomic, and psychological variables. The infants' arm circumference and intake of protein were significant predictors of scores on the Bayley Motor Scale. In addition, time spent by the mother talking to the infant was positively associated with the scores on the Bayley Infant Behavior Record. The empirical results have implications for identifying vulnerable children in developing countries. Am J Phys Anthropol 111:89–104, 2000. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.