Maternal Capabilities Are Associated with Child Caregiving Behaviors among Women in Rural Zimbabwe

Cynthia R. Matare, Mduduzi N.N. Mbuya, Katherine L. Dickin, Mark A. Constas, Gretel Pelto, Bernard Chasekwa, Jean H. Humphrey, Rebecca J. Stoltzfus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Young children require high-quality care for healthy growth and development. We defined "maternal capabilities"as factors that influence mothers' caregiving ability (physical and mental health, social support, time, decision-making autonomy, gender norm attitudes, and mothering self-efficacy), and developed survey tools to assess them. Objectives: We hypothesized that mothers with stronger capabilities during pregnancy would be more likely to practice improved care behaviors after their child was born. Methods: We assessed maternal capabilities among 4667 pregnant women newly enrolled in the Sanitation Hygiene Infant Nutrition Efficacy (SHINE) trial. Several improved child-care practices were promoted until 18 mo postpartum, the trial endpoint. Care practices were assessed by survey, direct observation, or transcription from health records during postpartum research visits. We used logistic regression to determine the predictive association between maternal capabilities during pregnancy and child-care practices. Results: Mothers with more egalitarian gender norm attitudes were more likely to have an institutional delivery [adjusted OR (AOR), 2.06; 95% CI, 1.57-2.69], initiate breastfeeding within 1 h of delivery (AOR, 1.38; 95% CI, 1.03-1.84), exclusively breastfeed (EBF) from birth to 3 mo (AOR, 2.55; 95% CI, 1.95-3.35) and 3-6 mo (AOR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.36-2.25), and, among households randomized to receive extra modules on sanitation and hygiene, have soap and water at a handwashing station (AOR, 1.76; 95% CI, 1.29-2.39). Mothers experiencing time stress were less likely to EBF from birth to 3 mo (AOR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.66-0.93). Greater social support was associated with institutional delivery (AOR, 1.53; 95% CI, 1.37-1.98) and, among mothers randomized to receive extra complementary feeding modules, feeding children a minimally diverse diet (AOR, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.01-1.37). Depressed mothers were 37% and 33%, respectively, less likely to have an institutional delivery (AOR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.44-0.88) and a fully immunized child (AOR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.50-0.90). Conclusions: Interventions to reduce maternal depression, time stress, inadequate social support, and inequitable gender norms may improve maternal child caregiving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-694
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021


  • Zimbabwe
  • caregiving
  • depression
  • gender norms attitudes
  • maternal capabilities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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