Weanling needs and the next pregnancy among the Iraqw of Tanzania
The reproductive process is characteristically biocultural and evolutionary. A woman concurrently manages her own biosocial needs and the needs of those dependent on her while pregnant. This negotiation process takes place in a specific social and ecological context which is the source of constraints and buffering mechanisms. The birth of a child creates an atmosphere of social change for a mother, her most recently weaned child, and the newborn. This study was carried out from September 2001 to November 2002 among the Iraqw, a group of Southern Cushitic speakers residing in northern Tanzania. A sample 45 women were selected to assess the impact of increasing fertility on young family development in the contest of social change. This longitudinal study examined biological, social, economic and demographic variation in relation to pregnancy, birth, child growth, and health. The primary objectives of this research were: 1) to identify if there are changes in child growth rates or morbidity throughout the birth transition; 2) to identify if changes in maternal body composition are reflected in the body composition of her children; and 3) to determine whether a mother’s social environment is associated with outcomes of pregnancy and child growth and morbidity. Results from this initial study have raised many questions. There is no clear finding that the birth of a sibling creates a vulnerable period of time for the index child. However, there are protective behaviors that indicate that mothers (and newborns) are nutritionally buffered during this time and that mothers nutritionally buffer some children under certain circumstances. There is ample evidence to suggest that social networks are critical to health and well being and that shifts in gender ideology in this younger generation may confound negative effects. Future research will focus on the details of social networks and the effects of shifting gender ideology in the context of reproduction and child caretaking.
School:The Ohio State University
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:biocultural anthropology international health reproductive ecology of reproduction breastfeeding and caretaking
Date of Publication:01/01/2004