Mental health of the mothers of malnourished children

Claudio Torres De Miranda, Gustavo Turecki, Jair De Jesus Mari, Sérgio Baxter Andreoli, Marco Antonio Marcolim, Samuel Goihman, Rosana Puccini, Brian L. Strom, Jesse A. Berlin

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42 Scopus citations


The objective of this study is to measure the association between protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) in children and their mothers' mental health, in a low income area in the city of Embu, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Methods. A case-control study was performed. Cases were 60 moderately and severely malnourished children (Gomez criteria) selected from two primary health care units. Controls consisted of 45 eutrophic children attending the same units, The main outcome measure was for the mothers to present a mental health score > 6 according with the 'Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Questionnaire' (QMPA), a psychiatric screening instrument. Results. Of mothers of children with PEM, 63% and 38% of mothers in the control group were QMPA positive: odds ratio (OR) = 2.8 (95% confidence interval [CI]:1.2-6.9). Of PEM children, 27% had low birthweight (LBW = < 2500 g) and 6% of the control group had LBW. Interactions were found between: mothers' mental health and number of children (with ≥ 4 children: OR = 20.0 [95% CI:2.1-274.2], with ≤ 3 children: OR = 1.6 [95% CI:0.6-4.5), as well as mothers' mental health and maternal age (in women > 30: OR = 12.5 [95% CI:2.0-93.4], in women ≤ 30:OR = 1.5 [95% CI:0.5-4.4], Conclusions. Mothers of children with PEM showed a higher rate of mental disturbances than mothers of eutrophic children. Unlike LBW, maternal age and number of children interact with mothers' mental health, increasing the association. Management of poor mental health may lead to mothers being better caretakers of their children and this may have a positive impact on PEM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-133
Number of pages6
JournalInternational journal of epidemiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology


  • Case-control
  • Low birthweight
  • Malnutrition
  • Mental health


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