Investigate the relationship between maternal autonomy at multiple levels and the risk of child stunting, underweight, and wasting in India.
Data were from a 2005–2006 nationally representative, cross-sectional sample of 51,555 children under 5 years from 29 states in India. Multilevel, multivariable, logistic regression analyses were used to estimate the odds of child stunting, underweight, and wasting in relation to maternal autonomy in healthcare, movement, and money at the individual level and community level, while adjusting for several child, maternal, and household factors.
When only adjusting for child age and sex, children in communities with a high proportion of women with autonomy in healthcare, or movement, or money, separately, had a lower risk of being stunted, underweight, or wasted, separately. However, adjusting for other explanatory factors attenuated these relationships and made them statistically insignificant. Individual maternal autonomy in any of the three domains was not associated with any of the outcomes.
The results suggest that caution should be taken when interpreting the direct relevance of maternal autonomy at both individual and community levels to measures of child undernutrition.