Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Frances McCarty - Committee Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Karen Gieseker - Committee Member


Child malnutrition is a problem in all countries and centers in poorer communities. Biological and socioeconomic factors alike contribute to malnutrition with recent studies focusing on aspects of maternal autonomy as an influencing factor. In this study, maternal autonomy is defined as the independence in her actions and control over resources a mother has within her household and is made up of several factors, including decision-making power, opinion of domestic abuse, and financial independence. Child nutritional outcomes were operationalized using the anthropometric measures height-for-age (HAZ), weight-for-height (WHZ), and weight-for-age (WAZ). For this study, the 2004-2005 Tanzanian Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) dataset was examined using weighted logistic regression in SPSS version 17. After controlling for sociodemographic covariates, the only maternal autonomy variable which was statistically associated with child nutritional outcome (associated with height-for-age) was if the mother had final say in decisions regarding her own healthcare (OR=0.857, 95% CI=0.749-0.980). Sociodemographic variables which were statistically associated with child nutritional outcome were child age (older children had higher odds ratios for stunting and lower odds ratios for wasting), child gender (being female was a protective factor against stunting and underweight), duration of breastfeeding (intervals longer than 24 months had higher odds ratios for stunting, wasting, and underweight), and family’s position in the wealth index (being in the richer and richest quintiles were protective factors against stunting and underweight). While further research is needed to examine other influencing factors such as sanitation, diet, and disease prevalence, decision-making power regarding a mother’s own healthcare is an important factor that may influence her ability to meet the nutritional needs of her children. This implies that public health professionals may want to look into avenues by which maternal autonomy may be enhanced for possible interventions to improve child nutritional status in Tanzania.

Included in

Public Health Commons