Walker, S. P. ; Chang, S. M. ; Powell, C. A. ; Simonoff, E. ; Grantham-McGregor, S. M.
Author Affiliation, Ana.
Early childhood stunting is associated with poor psychological functioning in late adolescence and effects are reduced by psychosocial stimulation
Date of Publication
Stunting is associated with deficits in cognition and school achievement from early childhood to late adolescence; however, there has been little investigation of emotional and behavioral outcomes. The objective of this study was to determine whether linear growth retardation (stunting) in early childhood is associated with poorer psychological functioning in late adolescence. The study was a prospective cohort study of stunted and nonstunted children. Participants were identified at age 9-24 mo by a survey of poor neighborhoods in Kingston, Jamaica, and a 2-y intervention trial of supplementation and stimulation was conducted in the stunted children. Psychological functioning was assessed at age 17 y in 103 of 129 stunted children enrolled and 64 of 84 nonstunted participants. Anxiety, depressive symptoms, self-esteem, and antisocial behavior were reported by participants using interviewer-administered questionnaires and attention deficit, hyperactivity, and oppositional behavior were reported by parent interviews. The stunted participants reported significantly more anxiety (regression coefficient = 3.03; 95% CI = 0.99, 5.08) and depressive symptoms (0.37; 95% CI = 0.01, 0.72) and lower self-esteem (-1.67; 95% CI = -0.38, -2.97) than nonstunted participants and were reported by their parents to be more hyperactive (1.29; 95% CI = 0.12, 2.46). Effect sizes were 0.4-0.5 SD. Participants who received stimulation in early childhood differed from the nonstunted group in hyperactivity only. Children stunted before age 2 y thus have poorer emotional and behavioral outcomes in late adolescence. The findings expand the range of disadvantages associated with early stunting, which affects 151 million children <5 y old in developing countries.....