Abstract

Better childhood nutrition is associated with earlier physical maturation during adolescence and increased schooling attainment. However, as earlier onset of puberty and increased schooling can have opposing effects on fertility, the net effect of improvements in childhood nutrition on a woman’s fertility are uncertain. Using path analysis, we estimate the strength of the pathways between childhood growth and subsequent fertility outcomes in Guatemalan women studied prospectively since birth. Height for age z score at 24 months was positively related to body mass index (BMI kg/m2) and height (cm) in adolescence and to schooling attainment. BMI was negatively associated (−0.23 ± 0.09 years per kg/m2; p < . 05) and schooling was positively associated (0.38 ± 0.06 years per grade; p < .001) with age at first birth. Total associations with the number of children born were positive from BMI (0.07 ± 0.02 per kg/m2; p < .05) and negative from schooling (−0.18 ± 0.02 per grade; p < .01). Height was not related to age at first birth or the number of children born. Taken together, childhood nutrition, as reflected by height at 2 years, was positively associated with delayed age at first birth and fewer children born. If schooling is available for girls, increased growth during childhood will most likely result in a net decrease infertility.

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