Growth failure among children of adolescent mothers at ages 0–5 and 6–12 years in India

Document Type

Article (peer-reviewed)

Publication Date



Adolescent motherhood has been linked with poor health outcomes at birth for children, including high neonatal mortality, low birthweight, and small-for-gestational-age rates. However, longer-term growth outcomes in the children of adolescent mothers in low-resource settings remain inadequately studied. We used longitudinal data from the India Human Development Surveys, 2004–2005 and 2011–2012 (n = 12,182) and employed regression and propensity score matching analysis to compare the following growth indicators of children born to adolescent mothers (ages 19 years or below) with those born to older mothers. Growth indicators included height and weight during ages 0–5 years and 6–12 years and change in height and weight between the two periods. In regression-based estimates, children born to adolescent mothers were 0.01 m shorter and weighed 0.2 kg less than children of older mothers at ages 0–5 years. At ages 6–12 years, those born to adolescent mothers were 0.02 m shorter and weighed 0.97 kg less. The height difference between the two groups increased by 0.01 m and the weight difference grew by 0.77 kg over time. Height and weight difference between the two groups worsened among boys over time, while for girls, only the weight gap worsened. The results were similar when using propensity score matching methods. Public policies for reducing child marriage, combined with targeted health, nutrition, and well-being programs for adolescent mothers, are essential for both preventing adolescent childbearing and reducing its impact on growth failure among children in India.