Associations between women's autonomy and child nutritional status: A review of the literature

Gwen J. Carlson, Katarzyna Kordas, Laura E. Murray-Kolb

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


Around the world, many women continue to experience low levels of autonomy. Recent literature has reported that the health consequences of low maternal autonomy extend beyond mothers and translate into health consequences for their children, and may be an important causal factor in child malnutrition. This review summarises the current knowledge of the relationship between maternal autonomy and children's nutritional status (defined as any measure that reflects the nutritional state of the body, such as birthweight or anthropometric scores) and child-feeding practices. The review also includes both discussion of the limitations found in the literature and directions for future research. A systematic review of the literature was conducted. Results of the studies included in the review strongly suggest that raising maternal autonomy is an important goal for improving children's nutritional status, yet gaps in the current knowledge exist, further confounded by issues with how autonomy is measured and limitations of cross-cultural comparability. A thorough understanding of the consequences of restricting women's autonomy will inform programmes and policy worldwide, and speed progress towards both empowering women and alleviating the global burden of child malnutrition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)452-482
Number of pages31
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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