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Psychosocial aspects of malnutrition among African children: antecedents, consequences, and interventions

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Publication date2013
Host publicationNeuropsychology in the African context: risk and resilience
EditorsMichael J. Boivin, Bruno Giordani
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages22
ISBN (electronic)9781461468349
ISBN (print)9781461468332
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Publication series

NameSpecialty Topics in Pediatric Neuropsychology


Childhood malnutrition imposes a heavy burden on already vulnerable communities. Malnutrition, both in the form of undernutrition and overnutrition, has been associated with an elevated risk of mortality, morbidity, and cognitive and social-emotional impairment. Although undernutrition traditionally has been a major risk factor in developing countries, overnutrition is increasingly becoming a burden with more children experiencing the adverse effects of overweight. Malnutrition not only leads to adverse psychosocial outcomes but also has been associated with a host of psychosocial antecedents. This current chapter attempts to synthesize existing empirical evidence from Africa so as to identify research gaps and potentially useful points of intervention. The reviewed literature indicates that, other than economic factors which limit access to food, psychosocial factors such as maternal depression, maternal (un)employment, and stimulation provided at home impact children’s nutritional status. Limited research evidence exists on antecedents of overnutrition in the African context; however, eating habits, degree of physical activity, socioeconomic status, and area of residence seem to contribute to the development of overnutrition. Interventions that focus on both biomedical (i.e. nutritional supplementation and prevention of ill health) and psychosocial aspects seem to be the most promising in tackling undernutrition. Similarly, a broad-based approach, which focuses on changing eating habits and encouraging physical activities, holds promise in halting current trends in obesity. In conclusion, this review further emphasizes the crucial role played by psychosocial factors in the emergence of childhood malnutrition.