Child growth stunting and development in Malawi

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Arvo building, auditorium F114, address: Arvo Ylpön katu 34.

Tiina Teivaanmäki

Doctoral defence of Lic.Med. Tiina Teivaanmäki

Child growth stunting and development in Malawi

The field of science of the dissertation is International health.

The opponent is professor Karim Manji (Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Tanzania). Professor Per Ashorn acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is English.

Catch-up growth is possible in adolescence among stunted children

Stunting affects 159 million children under 5 years of age worldwide. Approximately 36% of the world’s stunted children live in sub-Saharan Africa. Stunting is a measure of chronic undernutrition, and it is associated with increased mortality, morbidity and developmental problems from early childhood onwards. The first thousand days of life, i.e. the time from conception until the age of two, has been considered the most important period for growth and development. Catch-up in linear growth has been considered rare after two years of age.

This thesis is based on four scientific articles. It showed that catch-up growth is possible also in adolescence in rural Malawi, not only during the first thousand days of life. Later pubertal development may provide better opportunity for further growth in adolescence. Faster height gain among Malawian children associated with better cognitive capacity in adolescence. Part of the association between growth and intelligence seemed to be mediated by schooling.

Based on this thesis, it may be suggested that rural Malawian adolescents had more reported depressive sypmtoms than previously thought. Approximately 90% of the adolescents scored above the traditional cut-off for significant depressive symptoms in a questionnaire. Low birth weight was associated with reported depressive symptoms, otherwise high prevalence of these symptoms could not be explained in this study. In addition, it was shown in this thesis, that the development of 5 year old Malawian children associated with schooling outcomes later in life.


The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2357, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2018. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1863, Tampere University Press 2018.

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