Nuptiality norms in rural Bangladesh favour birth during the teenage years. An appreciable proportion of teenage births are, in fact, second births. This study examines the relationship between teenage fertility and high infant mortality. It is hypothesized that if physiological immaturity is responsible, then the younger the mother, the higher would be the mortality risk, and the effect of mother's ‘teenage’ on mortality in infancy, particularly in the neonatal period, would be higher for the second than the first births. Vital events recorded by the longitudinal demographic surveillance system in Matlab, Bangladesh, in 1990–92 were used. Logistic regression was used to estimate the effects on early and late neonatal (0–3 days and 4–28 days respectively) and post-neonatal mortality of the following variables: mother's age at birth, parity, education and religion, sex of the child, household economic status and exposure to a health intervention programme.
The younger the mother, the higher were the odds of her child dying as a neonate, and the odds were higher for second children than first children of teenage mothers. First-born children were at higher odds of dying in infancy than second births if mothers were in their twenties. Unfavourable mother's socioeconomic conditions were weakly, but significantly, associated with higher odds of dying during late neonatal and post-neonatal periods. The results suggest that physical immaturity may be of major importance in determining the relationship between teenage fertility and high neonatal mortality.