Associations between Women's Autonomy and Women's Experience of Domestic Violence with Children's Nutritional Status

Open Access
Carlson, Gwen J
Graduate Program:
Nutritional Sciences
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
April 22, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Katarzyna Kordas, Thesis Advisor
  • Laura E Murray Kolb, Thesis Advisor
  • women
  • children
  • autonomy
  • domestic violence
  • breastfeeding
  • complementary feeding
  • anemia
  • child malnutrition
A mother’s social context plays an important role in determining the health and well-being of her children. Constructs such as low maternal autonomy and experience of domestic violence not only compromise the health and well-being of women, but also can lead to adverse health outcomes for children. A systematic review of the literature was conducted summarizing the literature on maternal autonomy’s relationship to children’s nutritional status. Findings of the review strongly suggest that raising maternal autonomy is an important goal for improving children’s nutritional status. Additionally, a secondary analysis was performed using data from a 2005 national survey of Colombia, in which measures of maternal decision-making autonomy were associated with child feeding practices such as child age at introduction to complementary foods and the number of precautions (such as washing hands and utensils) that mother took during food preparation using generalized linear models. In addition, when mothers both experienced domestic violence and had low decision-making autonomy, the combination of these risk factors was associated with poor child feeding practices. There was an interaction between maternal autonomy and experience of domestic violence on child age at introduction to complementary feeding, breastfeeding duration, and likelihood of child anemia. Overall, findings from the review of the literature and the secondary data analysis presented here are important for policy-setting and for directing future research examining maternal autonomy, domestic violence, and their implications for the health and well-being of children.