Aim: This study aimed to examine the association between child development at 5 years of age and mathematics ability and schooling outcomes at 12 years of age in Malawian children.
Methods: A prospective cohort study looking at 609 rural Malawian children. Outcome measures were percentage of correctly answered mathematics questions, highest school grade completed and number of times repeating school grades at 12 years of age. A child development summary score obtained at 5 years of age was the main exposure variable. Regression analyses were used to estimate the association and adjust for confounders. Sensitivity analysis was performed by handling losses to follow-up with multiple imputation (MI) method.
Results: The summary score was positively associated with percentage of correctly answered mathematics questions (p = 0.057; p = 0.031 MI) and with highest school grade completed (p = 0.096; p = 0.070 MI), and negatively associated with number of times repeating school grades (p = 0.834; p = 0.339 MI). Fine motor score at 5 years was independently associated with the mathematic score (p = 0.032; p = 0.011 MI). The association between child development and mathematics ability did not depend on school attendance.
Conclusion: Child development at 5 years of age showed signs of positive association with mathematics ability and possibly with highest school grade completed at 12 years of age.