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Life-chances of children in Indonesia: the links between parental resources and children’s outcomes in the areas of nutrition, cognition and health

Heilmann, Sarah (2013) Life-chances of children in Indonesia: the links between parental resources and children’s outcomes in the areas of nutrition, cognition and health. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

The majority of children in the developing world are suffering from hardship and poverty, and are not able to reach their full potential. This thesis focuses on the relationship between parental resources and children’s outcomes in the areas of nutrition, cognition and physical health in Indonesia. The life-stages early childhood to young adulthood are crucial for human capital formation. Nutrition, cognition and physical health are key human capitals that are important both as a means to achieve wellbeing and as an end in their own right. They have been identified as some of the main routes for changes in well-being over the life-course and as significant pathways for breaking intergenerational poverty cycles. Disadvantages in these domains are especially salient in developing countries. Yet, evidence is still limited due to lack of appropriate data. Here, data from the Indonesian Family Life Survey (IFLS) is used, a rich panel data set consisting of four waves of data spanning a period of 14 years. I study a cohort of children who are less than three years old in the first wave of the IFLS and for whom relevant outcomes can be observed. While the availability of longitudinal data from IFLS is very important, the setup and design of the data presented an enormous challenge: unlike with longitudinal datasets from developed countries, such as the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) or the cohort studies, the IFLS data is presented more or less in raw form. In order to facilitate a critical and careful approach to working with this kind of complicated raw data, I completed two self-organized research stays with the IFLS team in which I witnessed the data collection and interviewed IFLS team members. This helped me to understand the questionnaire and measures better and to identify the strongest parts of the IFLS: the self-collected measures for children – namely the physical health measures height and lung capacity (collected by specially trained nurses) as well as a cognitive measure – the Raven’s coloured progressive matrices. These are unique features for a general household survey in a developing country context and constitute important child outcomes. As a starting point from which to ask more specific research questions concerning the three types of children's outcomes, I synthesized research from relevant domains such as neuroscience, social science, childhood studies and economics. Chapter 1, 2 and 3 constitute the setup of the research by detailing the motivation and background for the research, the conceptual frameworks, literature reviews, data and methodology as well as the research questions. Chapter 4, 5 and 6 are the empirical chapters investigating the aforementioned child outcomes in detail. Chapter 4 entitled: “Children’s nutritional status in early life and dynamics into adolescence” investigates firstly, to what extent parental resources are associated with children experiencing stunting in early childhood and in adolescence. Results for parental resources for stunting in early childhood reveal protective factors which include mother’s height and direct measures of living standards. For stunting in adolescence the importance of parental resources as protective factors increases (mother’s height is stronger related and father’s height is now significant as is household consumption as a measure of financial resources). The association with direct living standards decreases. Secondly, I investigate if there are stunting dynamics – that is, movement in and out of stunting between early childhood and adolescence. For dynamics of stunting I use transition matrices to show that entries and exits from stunting occur over children’s entire life-course (not just in early childhood). Movements into stunted growth decrease the older children get but are still around 6% between middle childhood (7-10 years old) and adolescence (14-17 years old). Movements out of stunted growth occur over the whole life-course of children with the highest exit rates of around 19% between ages 7-10 years and 14-17 years. My results support Adair’s study for the Philippines (1999) and Schott and Crookston’s recent research for Peru (2013). In Chapter 5, I investigate children’s cognitive outcomes – i.e. Raven’s coloured progressive matrices and math scores. Firstly, I examine to what extent children’s growth status in early childhood and change in growth is associated with cognitive test results in adolescence. Secondly, to what extent parental resources are associated with children’s cognitive test results. One key result indicates a significant positive association between initial/early height-for-age (HAZ) and cognitive test scores. This could support the hypothesis on early sensitive periods for cognitive development and the important role of pre– and post natal influences up to the early childhood measure. However, I also find evidence that changes in growth into middle childhood (i.e. the residual HAZ between early and later childhood) is significant positive associated with children’s cognitive test scores. This supports the hypothesis of the plasticity of the brain beyond early years. Chapter 6 is about children’s physical health measure of lung capacity. I investigate to what extent children’s growth status in early life and growth dynamics into adolescence are associated with children’s lung capacity. Further, I examine to what extent parental resources are associated with children’s lung capacity. A key result is that in terms of parental resources there is a strong positive association between father’s and mother’s lung capacity and their children in adolescence. Also maternal years of schooling is significantly associated. I do not find a significant positive association between initial/early height-for-age (HAZ) and lung capacity. This would work against the hypothesis on early sensitive periods and rather point to the importance of changes in growth after early childhood for children’s lung capacity development. The change in growth into middle childhood (residual HAZ) is significant positively associated with children’s lung capacity. These result differ from what I find for cognitive outcomes where early growth status and changes in growth are both relevant. Chapter 7 discusses recommendations for future research; for example, how new data collection efforts in Indonesia could contribute to closing evidence gaps on children’s life chances identified in this thesis by collecting birth cohort data or extending the IFLS. I also address implications for policy covering recommendations for more holistic childhood interventions, the kind of support provided and targeting of vulnerable children. Evidence on children’s life chances from Indonesia is very limited. I set out to make a contribution in providing evidence on child outcomes that are uniquely featured in the Indonesian Family Life Survey (IFLS). My key concern is to study the intergenerational determinants of child outcomes – that is, asking to what extent parental resources are linked to the level of children’s nutrition, cognition, and health but also the intra-generational link – that is to what extent nutritional status is linked to later growth dynamics and other child outcomes such as cognitive and health outcomes. To the best of my knowledge, there are very few previous studies for Indonesia that investigate these important child outcomes, especially with the focus on the intergenerational and life-course determinants.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Sarah Heilmann (née Mohaupt)
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Hills, John and Stewart, Kitty
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/954

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