Linear Growth and Child Development in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Malawi.

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OBJECTIVES: We aimed to produce quantitative estimates of the associations between 4 domains of child development and linear growth during 3 periods: before birth, early infancy, and later infancy. We also aimed to determine whether several factors attenuated these associations.

METHODS: In 3700 children in Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Malawi, growth was measured several times from birth to age 18 months. At 18 months, language, motor, socioemotional, and executive function development were assessed. In Burkina Faso (n = 1111), personal-social development was assessed rather than the latter 2 domains.

RESULTS: Linear growth was significantly associated with language, motor, and personal-social development but not socioemotional development or executive function. For language, the pooled adjusted estimate of the association with length-for-age z score (LAZ) at 6 months was 0.13 ± 0.02 SD, and with ΔLAZ from 6 to 18 months it was 0.11 ± 0.03 SD. For motor, these estimates were 0.16 ± 0.02 SD and 0.22 ± 0.03 SD, respectively. In 1412 children measured at birth, estimates of the association with LAZ at birth were similar (0.07-0.16 SD for language and 0.09-0.18 SD for motor development). These associations were weaker or absent in certain subsets of children with high levels of developmental stimulation or mothers who received nutritional supplementation.

CONCLUSIONS: Growth faltering during any period from before birth to 18 months is associated with poor development of language and motor skills. Interventions to provide developmental stimulation or maternal supplementation may protect children who are faltering in growth from poor language and motor development.


American Academy of Pediatrics

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