Household Headship and Nutritional Status of Toddlers: An Examination of Malawian Data

Clara C Chindime, Susie Ubomba-Jaswa


The feminisation of poverty indicates that female-headed households (FHH) constitute a vulnerable socio-economic group generally considered as impoverished compared to male-headed households (MHH). The interest in this paper is to examine whether the nutritional status of children in FHH differ significantly from that of children in MHH. Anthropometric data on 1466 toddlers aged 12-59 months and several societal, household and individual variables from the Malawi Demographic Health Survey (MDHS) 1992 were used to find out the net impact of the sex of household head on stunting, under nutrition and wasting in the toddlers. The bivariate results show that children in FHH (stunted – 56.7%; underweight - 33.3%; wasted – 6.7%) may not have poorer nutritional outcomes than their counterparts from MHH (stunted – 53.6%; underweight – 31.3%; wasted – 5.7%) since the differences are not significant. However, a number of the background characteristics were significantly associated with the three indicators suggesting that the results on headship could be masked by the differentials shown in background characteristics. Furthermore, results from the logistic regression analysis suggest that economic status has the strongest relationship with stunting. Hence the likelihood that a child from a better economic status household will be stunted is 50% less likely compared to a child from a poor household. Besides economic status, the role of birth weight, child’s age sanitation and the region in which the child lives were found to be important differentials in the nutritional status of toddlers in Malawi


Malawi; Male-headed household; Female-headed household; Stunting

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ISSN 2308-7854 (online); ISSN 0850-5780 (print)

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