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Parallel deficits in linear growth and mental development in low-income Mexican infants in the second year of life

  • Lia C Fernald (a1), Lynnette M Neufeld (a2), Lauren R Barton (a3), Lourdes Schnaas (a4), Juan Rivera (a2) and Paul J Gertler (a5)...



To explore anthropometric indicators and mental development in very-low-income children in the second year of life.


Cross-sectional survey.


Low-income areas (income <20th percentile) in semi-urban Mexico (defined as towns or cities with 2500–50 000 inhabitants).


Eight hundred and ninety-six children aged 12.5–23.5 months surveyed from September to December 2001.


Questionnaire survey and anthropometric survey of households. Multivariate regression models evaluated differences across age in anthropometry (height-for-age Z-score (HAZ) and weight-for-height Z-score) and cognitive function (Mental Development Index (MDI) of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development) while controlling for socio-economic and parental characteristics.


There was a significant decline in HAZ and in age-adjusted MDI score across the second year of life. Although the children showed MDI scores close to the mean, normed US values at 13–14 months, the scores were significantly lower than expected in older children (P < 0.0001), even after controlling for socio-economic status and parental characteristics. At 13–14 months, only 3% of children received scores below 70 (less than minus two standard deviations), whereas by 19–20 months, almost 17% of children were performing below this level. No socio-economic or parental characteristics were significant predictors of HAZ or MDI.


Parallel deficits are evident in both height-for-age and cognitive functioning during the second year of life in low-income Mexican infants. The consistency of these growth and development findings further stresses the need for targeted interventions to reduce the vulnerability of low-income Mexican children very early in life.

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Parallel deficits in linear growth and mental development in low-income Mexican infants in the second year of life

  • Lia C Fernald (a1), Lynnette M Neufeld (a2), Lauren R Barton (a3), Lourdes Schnaas (a4), Juan Rivera (a2) and Paul J Gertler (a5)...


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