Early Childhood Development Publications

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Early Childhood Development Publications

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Journal Articles

Passive Versus Active Service Delivery: Comparing the Effects of Two Parenting Interventions on Early Cognitive Development in Rural China

Sean Sylvia, Renfu Luo, Jingdong Zhong, Sarah-Eve Dill, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
World Development , 2021
We present the results of a cluster-randomized controlled trial that evaluates the effects of a free, center-based parenting intervention on early cognitive development and parenting practices in 100 rural villages in China. We then compare these effects to a previous trial of a home-based intervention conducted in the same region, using the same parenting curriculum and public service system, accounting for potential differences between the studies. We find that the center-based intervention did not have a significant impact on child development outcomes, but did lead to increases in the material investments, time investments, and parenting skills of caregivers. The average impact of the center-based intervention on child skills and investments in children was significantly smaller than the home-visiting intervention. Analysis of the possible mechanisms suggests that the difference in effects was driven primarily by different patterns of selection into program participation.
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Journal Articles

Special Issue: Agriculture, the Rural Economy and China's Growth in the 21st Century: Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of AAEA China Section

Scott Rozelle, Yuqing Zheng, Chengfang Liu
China Agricultural Economic Review , 2021
Scott Rozelle, Yuqing Zheng, and Chengfang Liu were the guest editors of this special issue on agriculture, the rural economy and China's growth in the 21st century. Scott Rozelle also authored a publication in this issue.
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Journal Articles

Infant Cognitive Development and Stimulating Parenting Practices in Rural China

Hannah Johnstone, Yi Yang, Hao Xue, Scott Rozelle
Environmental Research and Public Health , 2021
This study examines the prevalence of cognitive delay among infants and toddlers in rural China and its relationship with one of the potential sources of the observed delay: low levels of stimulating parenting practices (SPPs). Data were compiled from five distinct studies, resulting in a pooled sample of 4436 caregivers of 6–29-month-old infants. The sampling sites span five provinces in rural China. According to the data, on average, rates of delay are high—51 percent. The low rates of SPPs among our sample demonstrate that this may be one source of the high prevalence of delays. The results of the multivariate regression analysis reveal that reading books and singing songs are each significantly associated with an increase in infant cognitive score by 1.62 points (p = 0.003) and 2.00 points (p < 0.001), respectively. Telling stories to infants, however, is not significantly associated with infant cognitive scores. Our findings indicate that caregivers with different characteristics engage in various levels of stimulating practices and have infants with different rates of delay. Specifically, infants of better-educated mothers who have greater household assets are in families in which the caregivers provide more SPPs and have infants who score higher on the study’s cognitive abilities scales.
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Journal Articles

Trajectories of Child Cognitive Development During Ages 0-3 in Rural Western China: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Links to Preschool-Age Cognition

Lei Wang, Yifei Chen, Sean Sylvia, Sarah-Eve Dill, Scott Rozelle
BMC Pediatrics , 2021
Background: Cognitive development after age three tends to be stable and can therefore predict cognitive skills in later childhood. However, there is evidence that cognitive development is less stable before age three. In rural China, research has found large shares of children under age three are developmentally delayed, yet little is known about the trajectories of cognitive development between 0 and 3 years of age or how developmental trajectories predict later cognitive skills. This study seeks to describe the trajectories of child cognitive development between the ages of 0–3 years and examine how different trajectories predict cognitive development at preschool age. Methods: We collected three waves of longitudinal panel data from 1245 children in rural Western China. Child cognitive development was measured by the Bayley Scales of Infant Development when the child was 6–12 months and 22–30 months, and by the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Fourth Edition when the child was 49–65 months. We used the two measures of cognitive development before age three to determine the trajectories of child cognitive development. Results: Of the children, 39% were never cognitively delayed; 13% were persistently delayed; 7% experienced improving cognitive development; and 41% experienced deteriorating development before age 3. Compared to children who had never experienced cognitive delay, children with persistent cognitive delay and those with deteriorating development before age 3 had significantly lower cognitive scores at preschool age. Children with improving development before age 3 showed similar levels of cognition at preschool age as children who had never experienced cognitive delay. Conclusions: Large shares of children under age 3 in rural Western China show deteriorating cognitive development from infancy to toddlerhood, which predict lower levels of cognition at preschool age. Policymakers should invest in improving cognitive development before age 3 to prevent long-term poor cognition among China’s rural children.
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Journal Articles

Variations in the Home Language Environment and Early Language Development in Rural China

Yue Ma, Laura Jonsson, Tianli Feng, Tyler Weisberg, Teresa Shao, Zixin Yao, Dongming Zhang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Yian Guo, Yue Zhang, Dimitris Friesen, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2021
The home language environment is critical to early language development and subsequent skills. However, few studies have quantitatively measured the home language environment in low-income, developing settings. This study explores variations in the home language environment and child language skills among households in poor rural villages in northwestern China. Audio recordings were collected for 38 children aged 20–28 months and analyzed using Language Environment Analysis (LENA) software; language skills were measured using the MacArthur–Bates Mandarin Communicative Developmental Inventories expressive vocabulary scale. The results revealed large variability in both child language skills and home language environment measures (adult words, conversational turns, and child vocalizations) with 5- to 6-fold differences between the highest and lowest scores. Despite variation, however, the average number of adult words and conversational turns were lower than found among urban Chinese children. Correlation analyses did not identify significant correlations between demographic characteristics and the home language environment. However, the results do indicate significant correlations between the home language environment and child language skills, with conversational turns showing the strongest correlation. The results point to a need for further research on language engagement and ways to increase parent–child interactions to improve early language development among young children in rural China.
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Journal Articles

Early Childhood Reading in Rural China and Obstacles to Caregiver Investment in Young Children: A Mixed-Methods Analysis

Rui Li, Nathan Rose, Yi Ming Zheng, Yunwei Chen, Sean Sylvia, Henry Wilson-Smith, Alexis Medina, Sarah-Eve Dill, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2021
Studies have shown that nearly half of rural toddlers in China have cognitive delays due to an absence of stimulating parenting practices, such as early childhood reading, during the critical first three years of life. However, few studies have examined the reasons behind these low levels of stimulating parenting, and no studies have sought to identify the factors that limit caregivers from providing effective early childhood reading practices (EECRP). This mixed-methods study investigates the perceptions, prevalence, and correlates of EECRP in rural China, as well as associations with child cognitive development. We use quantitative survey results from 1748 caregiver–child dyads across 100 rural villages/townships in northwestern China and field observation and interview data with 60 caregivers from these same sites. The quantitative results show significantly low rates of EECRP despite positive perceptions of early reading and positive associations between EECRP and cognitive development. The qualitative results suggest that low rates of EECRP in rural China are not due to the inability to access books, financial or time constraints, or the absence of aspirations. Rather, the low rate of book ownership and absence of reading to young children is driven by the insufficient and inaccurate knowledge of EECRP among caregivers, which leads to their delayed, misinformed reading decisions with their young children, ultimately contributing to developmental delays.
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Journal Articles

Maternal Health Behaviors During Pregnancy in Rural Northwestern China

Yue Ma, Yujuan Gao, Jason Li, Andrew Sun, Baozhu Wang, Jun Zhang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth , 2020
Background: Maternal health during pregnancy is a key input in fetal health and child development. This study aims to systematically describe the health behaviors of pregnant women in rural China and identify which subgroups of women are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors during pregnancy.
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Journal Articles

Effects of Baby-Friendly Practices on Breastfeeding Duration in China: A Case-Control Study

Yue Zhang, Jinliuxing Yang, Wenhao Li, Nianrong Wang, Ya Ye, Shuangqin Yan, Sumei Wang, Ting Zeng, Zijuan Huang, Fenghua Zhang, Yin Li, Shiyi Yao, Haijun Wang, Scott Rozelle, Tao Xu, Xi Jin
International Breastfeeding Journal , 2020
Background:  The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is generally considered an effective way to promote breastfeeding. Although China has the largest number of baby-friendly hospitals in the world, research on baby-friendly practices in China is limited, and the rate of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) at 6 months, 20.7%, compared to the 2025 global goal of 50% is low. It is, therefore, important to determine the factors that remain significant barriers to EBF in China. To explore how the key baby-friendly practices affect EBF duration in China, we used a case-control study to compare the effects of baby-friendly-related practices on both EBF and non-breastfeeding (NBF) mothers at 3 months and to investigate the effects of both single and comprehensive baby-friendly practices in promoting EBF duration at 3 months, which is one step toward EBF at 6 months. Methods:  Participants were recruited from four maternal and child health hospitals in western (Chongqing), eastern (Qingdao), southern (Liuzhou), and central China (Maanshan). A total of 421 mothers (245 in the EBF group, 176 in the NBF group) of infants aged 3 months were surveyed through a self-reported questionnaire from April 2018 to March 2019. The experience of baby-friendly practices and breastfeeding during hospitalization were assessed with yes/no questions. Socio-demographic factors that influenced breastfeeding at 3 months were analyzed using bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses. Results:  Of mothers in the EBF group, 65.57% reported engaging in at least seven baby-friendly practices compared to 47.72% of mothers in the NBF group. Significantly more mothers in the EBF group engaged in baby-friendly practices than in the NBF group. These practices included “breastfeeding within one hour after birth” (74.29% vs. 59.09%), “breastfeeding on demand” (86.48% vs. 75.00%), and “never use a pacifier” (46.53% vs. 31.25%). After adjusting for confounding variables, we found that the mothers who engaged in fewer than seven baby-friendly practices were about 1.7 times less likely to breastfeed than were those who engaged in seven or more baby-friendly practices (odds ratio [OR] 1.720, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.106, 2.667). Further, the mothers who did not breastfeed on demand were as likely to not breastfeed up to 3 months (OR 2.263, 95% CI 1.265, 4.049), as were mothers who did not breastfeed during hospitalization (OR 4.379, 95% CI 1.815, 10.563). Conclusions:  These data from hospitals in China suggest that higher compliance with baby-friendly practices may have a positive impact on EBF at 3 months, particularly in terms of promoting the implementation of breastfeeding on demand and breastfeeding during hospitalization in China.
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Journal Articles

Early Child Development and Caregiver Subjective Well-Being in Rural China

Renfu Luo, Qijia Lyu, Scott Rozelle, Shun Wang
China Agricultural Economic Review , 2020
Purpose: This study aims to bridge the gaps in the existing literature by studying the links between children's development and the subjective well-being of the caregivers using first-hand data collected in rural China. Design/methodology/approach: Although the broad array of literature has examined the effects of child development on the subjective well-being of caregivers, the relationship between early childhood development and caregiver subjective well-being has not been well-studied using sample families with potential developmental delay in rural China. Also, existing research has relied on maternal reports to evaluate the developmental status of children. The study used data collected from 32 townships in seven nationally designated poverty counties in the Qinling mountainous area in 2016. The authors measure child development using the social-emotional module of the Ages & Stages Questionnaire and Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development–Third Edition. Findings: The authors find that child development indicators are correlated with caregiver subjective well-being. In particular, social-emotional skills are positively associated with life evaluations and positive emotion. However, we do not find any significant correlation between child development and negative emotion or depression, anxiety and stress scores. Originality/value: The value of this study is to report the indicators of child development in rural China and examines the correlation between child development and caregivers' subjective well-being.
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Journal Articles

Correlates of Participation in Community-Based Interventions: Evidence from a Parenting Program in Rural China

Yiwei Qian, Yi Ming Zheng, Sarah-Eve Dill, Scott Rozelle
PLOS One , 2020
A growing body of literature has documented that community-based early childhood development (ECD) interventions can improve child developmental outcomes in vulnerable communities. One critical element of effective community-based programs is consistent program participation. However, little is known about participation in community-based ECD interventions or factors that may affect participation. This paper examines factors linked to program participation within a community-based ECD program serving 819 infants and their caregivers in 50 rural villages in northwestern China. The results find that more than half of families did not regularly attend the ECD program. Both village-level social ties within the program and proximity to the program significantly predict program participation. Increased distance from the program site is linked with decreased individual program participation, while the number of social ties is positively correlated with participation. The average program participation rates among a family’s social ties is also positively correlated with individual participation, indicating strong peer effects. Taken together, our findings suggest that attention should be given to promoting social interactions and reducing geographic barriers among households in order to raise participation in community-based ECD programs.
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Journal Articles

“At Three Years of Age, We Can See the Future”: Cognitive Skills and the Life Cycle of Rural Chinese Children

Huan Zhou, Ruixue Ye, Sean Sylvia, Nathan Rose, Scott Rozelle
Demographic Research , 2020
BACKGROUND: Although the Chinese education system has seen massive improvements over the past few decades, there are still large academic achievement gaps between rural and urban areas that threaten China’s long-term development. In addition, recent literature underscores the importance of early childhood development (ECD) in later-life human capital development. OBJECTIVES: We analyze the life cycle of cognitive development and learning outcomes in rural Chinese children by first exploring whether ECD outcomes affect cognition levels, then determining whether cognitive delays persist as children grow, and finally examining connections between cognition and education outcomes. METHODS: We combine data from four recent studies that examine different age groups (0–3, 4–5, 10–11, 13–14) to track cognitive outcomes. RESULTS: First, we find that ECD outcomes for children in rural China are poor, with almost one in two children who are cognitively delayed. Second, we find that these cognitive delays seem to persist into middle school, with almost 37% of rural junior high school students who are cognitively delayed. Finally, we show that cognition has a close relationship to academic achievement. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that urban–rural gaps in academic achievement originate at least in part from differences in ECD outcomes. CONTRIBUTIONS: Although many papers have analyzed ECD, human capital, and inequality separately, this is the first paper to explicitly connect and combine these topics to analyze the life cycle of cognitive development in the context of rural China.
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Working Papers

Passive versus Active Service Delivery: Comparing the Effects of Two Parenting Interventions on Early Cognitive Development in Rural China

Jingdong Zhong, Renfu Luo, Sean Sylvia, Sarah-Eve Dill, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
2020
We present the results of a cluster-randomized controlled trial that evaluates the effects of a free, center-based parenting intervention on early cognitive development and parenting practices in 100 rural villages in China. We then compare these effects to a home-based intervention conducted in the same region, using the same parenting curriculum and public service system. We find that the center-based intervention significantly improved children’s cognitive skills by 0.11 standard deviations, accompanied by increases in the material investments, time investments, and parenting skills of caregivers. The average impact of the center-based intervention, however, was approximately half that of the home-visiting intervention. Analysis of the possible mechanisms suggests that the difference in effects was driven primarily by different patterns of compliance. Although children with lower levels of initial skills at baseline benefited the most from the center-based intervention, they were less likely to participate in the program. Keywords: Center-based parenting intervention; home-based parenting intervention; early cognitive development; randomized controlled trial; program participation
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Journal Articles

Parental Migration and Early Childhood Development in Rural China

Ai Yue, Yu Bai, Yaojiang Shi, Renfu Luo, Scott Rozelle, Alexis Medina, Sean Sylvia
Demography , 2020
Nearly one-quarter of all children under age 2 in China are left behind in the countryside as parents migrate to urban areas for work.We use a four-wave longitudinal survey following young children from 6 to 30 months of age to provide first evidence on the effects of parental migration on development, health, and nutritional outcomes in the critical first stages of life. We find that maternal migration has a negative effect on cognitive development: migration before children reach 12 months of age reduces cognitive development by 0.3 standard deviations at age 2. Possible mechanisms include reduced dietary diversity and engagement in stimulating activities, both known to be causally associated with skill development in early life. We find no effects on other dimensions of physical and social-emotional health.
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Journal Articles

Using Community Health Workers to Deliver a Scalable Integrated Parenting Program in Rural China: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial

Renfu Luo, Ai Yue, Dorien Emmers, Nele Warinnier, Scott Rozelle, Sean Sylvia
Social Science & Medicine , 2019

Inadequate care during early childhood can lead to long-term deficits in skill development. Parenting programs are promising tools for improving parenting practices and opportunities for healthy development. We implemented a non-masked cluster-randomized controlled trial in rural China in order to assess the effectiveness of an integrated home-visitation program that includes both psychosocial stimulation and health promotion at fostering development and health outcomes of infants and toddlers in rural China. All 6-18 month-old children of two rural townships and their main caregiver were enrolled. Villages were stratified by township and randomly assigned to intervention or control. Specifically, in September 2015 we assigned 43 clusters to treatment (21 villages, 222 caregiver-child dyads) or control (22 villages, 227 caregiver-child dyads). In the intervention group, community health workers delivered education and training on how to provide young children with psychosocial stimulation and health care (henceforth psychosocial stimulation and health promotion) during bi-weekly home visits over the period of one year. The control group received no home visits. Primary outcomes include measures of child development (i.e. the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, third edition—or Bayley-III) and health (i.e. measures of morbidity, nutrition, and growth). Secondary outcomes are measures of parenting practices. Intention-to-treat (ITT) effects show that the intervention led to an improvement of 0·24 standard deviations (SD) [95% CI 0·04 SD-0·44 SD] in cognitive development and to a reduction of 8·1 [95% CI 3·8–12·4] percentage points in the risk of diarrheal illness. In addition, we find positive effects on parenting practices mirroring these results. We conclude that an integrated psychosocial stimulation and health promotion program improves development and health outcomes of infants and toddlers (6–30 month-old children) in rural China. Because of low incremental costs of adding program components (that is, adding health promotion to psychosocial stimulation programs), integrated programs may be cost-effective.

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Journal Articles

Concurrent Validity of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and the Bayley Scales of Infant Development III in China

Ai Yue, Qi Jiang, Biaoyue Wang, Cody Abbey, Alexis Medina, Yaojiang Shi, Scott Rozelle
PLoS ONE , 2019

Choosing a valid and feasible method to measure child developmental outcomes is key to addressing developmental delays, which have been shown to be associated with high levels of unemployment, participation in crime, and teen pregnancies. However, measuring early childhood development (ECD) with multi-dimensional diagnostic tests such as the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development III (Bayley-III) can be time-consuming and expensive; therefore, parental screening tools such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3) are frequently an alternative measure of early childhood development in largescale research. The ASQ is also becoming more frequently used as the first step to identify children at risk for developmental delays before conducting a diagnostic test to confirm. However, the effectiveness of the ASQ-3 is uncertain. In this study, we evaluate the accuracy of the ASQ-3 as a screening measure for children at risk of developmental delay in rural China by age group. To do so, we administered the Bayley-III, widely considered to be the “gold standard” of ECD diagnostic tests, to a sample of 1,831 five to twenty-four monthold children and also administered the ASQ-3 to their caregivers. We then compared the outcomes of the ASQ-3 test to those of the Bayley-III. We find that the ASQ-3 was significantly though weakly correlated with the Bayley-III and that the strength of this correlation increased with child age and was stronger when the mother was the primary caregiver (as compared to the grandmother). We also find that the sensitivity and specificity of ASQ-3 ranged widely. The overall findings suggest that the ASQ-3 may not be a very accurate screening tool for identifying developmentally delayed children, especially for children under 13 months of age or children whose primary caregiver is not the mother.

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Journal Articles

The Landscape of Early Childhood Development in Rural China

Sarah-Eve Dill, Yue Ma, Andrew Sun, Scott Rozelle
The Asia-Pacific Journal , 2019

In China, low levels of early childhood development (ECD) in rural areas may inhibit economic development as the nation attempts to transition from a middle-income manufacturing-based economy to a high-income innovation economy. This paper surveys the recent literature on ECD among children ages 0-3 years in rural China, including rates of developmental delays, causes of delays, and implications for the future of China’s economy. Recent studies have found high rates of developmental delays among young children in rural China and point to poor nutrition and psychosocial stimulation as the primary causes. This review highlights the need for large-scale ECD interventions in rural China to raise human capital and support future economic growth.

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Journal Articles

Stimulation and Early Child Development in China: Caregiving at Arm's Length

Ai Yue, Yaojiang Shi, Renfu Luo, Boya Wang, Ann Weber, Alexis Medina, Sarah Kotb, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics , 2019
ABSTRACT: Objective: To provide an empirical overview of the parenting landscape in rural China, focusing on 18- to 30-month-old children and their caregivers in rural Shaanxi province. Methods: We collected unique data on 1442 caregiver-toddler dyads in rural areas of Shaanxi province and examined caregiver attitudes toward parenting, sources of information about parenting, and interactive parenting practices, and how each of these differed across generations. We measured how parenting attitudes and sources of information informed parenting practices. Finally, we measured levels of child development in our sample and the association between parenting practices and children’s developmental outcomes. Results: Most of the caregivers did not engage with children in a way that encouraged early development. Caregivers rarely told stories, sang, or used toys to play with their children. Grandmothers were more stressed by the children in their care and engaged significantly less than mothers did in the 3 stimulating interactions. Professional sources of information about parenting were underutilized by all caregivers. We found high rates of developmental delay in our sample and showed that these delays were associated with the lack of caregiver engagement. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that the major economic and social shifts occurring in rural China have not led to a widespread prevalence of stimulative parenting practices. Although caregivers report positive attitudes toward child-rearing, reliable sources of scientific information are lacking. Our results show a troubling generational disconnect between the information-seeking behaviors and parenting practices of rural caregivers.
 
Index terms: caregiver-child interaction, parenting, early child development.
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Journal Articles

Use of maternal health services among women in the ethnic rural areas of western China

Yuju Wu, Huan Zhou, Qingzhi Wang, Min Cao, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
BMC Health Services Research , 2019
Background: The use of maternal health services can markedly promote the maternal health and safety, but there has been a low utilization rate in the ethnic rural areas of western China. Furthermore, the correlated factors have not been well studied. This study aims to assess factors related to the use of maternal health services among women in these areas.
Methods: A cross-sectional study of 68 villages in China’s western Sichuan province was conducted in September 2014. All qualifying women from each sample village were involved. A structured questionnaire was administrated in households through face-to-face interviews by trained enumerators to obtain information of use of maternal health services and related factors. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to evaluate the direct and indirect relationships between use of maternal health services and correlated factors.
Results: A total of 760 women from 68 villages were enrolled. The proportion of antenatal care (ANC), hospital delivery and postpartum visits were 68.94, 48.29 and 28.42% respectively. The SEM analysis demonstrated that social economic status (SES) (β= − 0.75, β< 0.01), ANC (β=0.13, β< 0.01), and time from home to the nearest hospital (β= − 0.09, β< 0.05), were positively correlated to hospital delivery and postpartum care visits, while maternal care knowledge and perceived quality of hospital care did not have direct correlation. For ANC, SES (β= − 0.36, β< 0.01), time from home to the nearest hospital (β= − 0.13, β< 0.05), knowledge on maternal care (β=0.12, β< 0.01) and perceived quality of hospital care (β=0.10, β< 0.01) were all directly correlated factors. Treating ANC as an intermediate variable showed the indirect relationship that perceived quality of hospital care (β=0.01, β< 0.01) and maternal care knowledge (β=0.02, β< 0.01) had with hospital delivery and postpartum care rates.
Conclusions: Use of maternal health services is low among women in ethnic rural areas. ANC has important direct and intermediate effects on subsequent use of hospital delivery and postpartum care. Improving ANC behavior should be a priority of maternal health care reforms. Given the long travel times for these women, reforms must also prioritize breaking down practical barriers that prevent this population from accessing care.
Keywords: Maternal health services, Antenatal care, Ethnic areas, Western China
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Journal Articles

Are Infant/Toddler Developmental Delays a Problem Across Rural China?

Lei Wang, Wilson Liang, Cordelia Yu, Mengjie Li, Siqi Zhang, Yonglei Sun, Qingrui Ma, Laura Johnsson, Cody Abbey, Renfu Luo, Ai Yue, Yu Bai, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Comparative Economics , 2019

Using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development-III (BSID-III), we examine the rates of developmental delays among children aged 0–3 years in four major subpopulations of rural China, which, altogether, account for 69% of China's rural children and 49% of children nationwide. The results indicate that 85% of the 3,353 rural children in our sample suffer from at least one kind of developmental delay. Specifically, 49% of the children have cognitive delays, 52% have language delays, 53% have social emotional delays, and 30% have motor delays. The results suggest that these high rates are due to two main factors in the parenting environment. The first is micronutrient deficiencies, which are reflected in a high prevalence of anemia (42%). The second is an absence of interactive parenting inputs, such as storytelling, reading, singing, and playing. Although we find these inputs to be significantly and positively associated with better developmental outcomes, only a small share of caregivers engage in them. With this large and broad sample, we show that, if China hopes to build up enough human capital to transition to a high-income economy, early childhood development in rural areas urgently requires more attention. 

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Journal Articles

Breastfeeding and the Risk of Illness among Young Children in Rural China

Shanshan Li, Ai Yue, Cody Abbey, Alexis Medina, Yaojiang Shi
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2019

Poor rural areas in China exhibit the country’s highest rates of child mortality, often stemming from preventable health conditions such as diarrhea and respiratory infection. In this study, we investigate the association between breastfeeding and disease among children aged 6–24 months in poor rural counties in China. To do this, we conducted a longitudinal, quantitative analysis of socioeconomic demographics, health outcomes, and breastfeeding practices for 1802 child–caregiver dyads across 11 nationally designated poverty counties in southern Shaanxi Province in 2013–2014. We found low rates of continued breastfeeding that decreased as children developed: from 58.2% at 6–12 months, to 21.6% at 12–18 months, and finally to 5.2% at 18–24 months. These suboptimal rates are lower than all but one other country in the Asia-Pacific region. We further found that only 18.3% of children 6–12 months old met the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended threshold for minimum dietary diversity, defined as consuming four or more of seven specific food groups. Breastfeeding was strongly associated with lower rates of both diarrhea and cough in bivariate and multivariate analyses. As the first analysis to use longitudinal data to examine the relationship between continued breastfeeding and child illness in China, our study confirms the need for programmatic interventions that promote continued breastfeeding in order to improve toddler health in the region.

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Journal Articles

Prenatal Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Early Development of Children in Rural Guizhou Province, China

Yang He, Renfu Luo, Tianyi Wang, Jingjing Gao, Chengfang Liu
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2018

Background: There is a substantial body of evidence supporting the association between maternal active smoking during pregnancy and child development, but the association between prenatal exposure to environmental tobaccos smoke (ETS) and early child development has not been well documented. This cross-sectional study examines the association between prenatal exposure to ETS and the development of children in their first two years of life. 

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Journal Articles

Caregiver Depression and Early Child Development: A Mixed-Methods Study From Rural China

Ai Yue, Jiaqi Gao, Meredith Yang, Lena Swinnen, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
Frontiers in Psychology , 2018

Half of rural toddlers aged 0–3 years in China’s Qinling Mountainous region are cognitively delayed. While recent studies have linked poor child development measures to the absence of positive parenting behaviors, much less is known about the role that caregiver depression might play in shaping child development. In this paper, a mixed methods analysis is used to explore the prevalence of depression; measure the association between caregiver depression and children’s developmental delays, correlates of depression, and the potential reasons for caregiver depression among women in rural China. The analysis brings together results from a large-scale survey of 1,787 caregivers across 118 villages in one northwestern province, as well as information from in-depth interviews with 55 female caregivers from these same study sites. Participants were asked to respond to the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21) as well as a scale to measure children’s social-emotional development, the Ages and Stages Questionnaire: Social-Emotional (ASQ-SE). We also administered a test of early childhood development, the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (BSID-III), to all of the study household’s infants and toddlers. The results show that the prevalence of depression may be as high as 23.5 percent among all female caregivers (defined as scoring in the mild or higher category of the DASS-21). Grandmothers have higher prevalence of depression than mother caregivers (p < 0.01). Caregiver depression also is significantly associated with a 0.53 SD worsening of children’s social-emotional development (p < 0.01) and a 0.12 SD decrease in children’s language development (p < 0.05). Our qualitative findings reveal six predominant reasons for caregiver depression: lack of social support from family and friends; the burden of caregiving; lack of control and agency within the household; within-family conflict; poverty; the perception of material wealth as a measure of self-worth. Our findings show a serious lack of understanding of mental health issues among rural women, and suggest that rural communities could benefit greatly from an educational program concerning mental health and its influence on child development. Our findings confirm the need for a comprehensive approach toward rural health, with particular attention paid to mental health awareness and support to elderly caregivers.

 

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Journal Articles

Understanding the Situation of China’s Left‐Behind Children: A Mixed‐Methods analysis

Fang Chang, Yaojiang Shi, Amber Shen, Asa Kohrman, Katherine Li, Qinqin Wan, Kaleigh Kenny, Scott Rozelle
The Developing Economies , 2018

This research uses a mixed-methods analysis to examine how being left behind impacts the cognition/education,  nutrition,  and  mental  health  outcomes  of  children  in  rural  China.  We find  that  parental  migration  increases  household  income  and  decreases  care,  and  these impacts  vary  based  on location,  socioeconomic  status,  and  age.  We  also  find  that  families generally recognize these impacts. Our findings offer a more general view of the effects of being  left  behind  on  childhood  outcomes  than  previous  research,  which  often  used  small sample sizes from limited geographic areas or age ranges. Although our research focuses on China, the findings are relevant to other developing nations where working-age individuals often  migrate  domestically  or  internationally  in  search  of  work,  such  as  Mexico  and  the Philippines. 

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Journal Articles

Is Infant/Toddler Anemia a Problem across Rural China? A Mixed-Methods Analysis

Lei Wang, Yonglei Sun, Buyao Liu, Lijuan Zheng, Mengjie Li, Yu Bai, Annie Osborn, Maggie Lee, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2018
In the past, iron-deficiency anemia in children has had a widespread presence in rural China. Given the recent economic growth in China, it is unclear if anemia among infants/toddlers remains a problem. The objective of this study is to measure the anemia rate in rural Chainese infants/toddlers across four major subpopulations and attempt to discover the sources of anemia. We use a mixed-methods approach combining quantitative data on 2909 rural Chinese infants/toddlers and their families with qualitative interviews with 84 caregivers of infants aged 6 to 30 months. Quantitative analysis indicates that the overall prevalence of anemia (43%) within sampled infants/toddlers was high, especially in comparison to the low rates of stunting (2–5%), being underweight (2%), and wasting (2–4%). These findings suggest that in rural China, anemia stems from the poor quality of the diets of infants/toddlers, rather than insufficient quantities of food being consumed. Qualitative analysis illustrates the factors that are contributing to anemia. Caregivers do not understand the causes of this condition, the symptoms that would lead one to recognize this condition, or the steps needed to treat their child with this condition. The findings offer a comprehensive understanding of the limited awareness of anemia among rural Chinese caregivers.
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Journal Articles

Effect of Caregiver's mental Health on Early Childhood Development across Different Rural Communities in China

Siqi Zhang, Ruirui Dang, Ning Yang, Lei Wang, Cody Abbey, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2018

Previous research has found that there are high rates of developmental delays among infants and toddlers in rural areas of China. Caregiver mental health problems might be one significant predictor of developmental delays among infants and toddlers, as has been found in other areas of the world. One way that the mental health of caregivers could affect early childhood development is through its effect on parenting practices. In this study, we used data from four major subpopulations of rural China to measure the correlation of caregiver mental health problems with the developmental outcomes of infants and toddlers. To do so, the study used the Bayley Scales of Infant Development III (BSID III) to examine the rates of developmental delays among 2514 rural infants/toddlers aged 6–30 months old. The results of the testing demonstrate that 48% of the sample’s infants/toddlers have cognitive delays; 52% have language delays; 53% have social-emotional delays; and 30% have motor delays. The data collection team also assessed caregiver mental health by using the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS-21) questionnaire. According to the findings, 39% of caregivers in the sample have symptoms of at least one kind of mental health problem (depression, anxiety, or stress). We also found that most caregivers do not engage in positive parenting practices, while a significant share of caregivers engage in negative parenting practices. The statistical analysis found that showing signs of mental health problems is significantly and negatively associated with infant/toddler developmental outcomes. The study also found that caregivers who show signs of mental health problems are significantly less likely to engage in interactive parenting practices. The study confirms that society needs to pay more attention to caregiver mental health problems in order to improve infant/toddler developmental outcomes in rural China and increase human capital accumulation in China as a whole.

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