Young Child Health Among Eyasi Datoga: Socioeconomic Marginalization, Local Biology, and Infant Resilience within the Mother-Infant Dyad
AuthorYoung, Alyson G.
AdvisorPike, Ivy L.
Committee ChairPike, Ivy L.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis biocultural study of infant health and the sensitivity of maternal caretaking strategies was conducted between November 2004 and February 2006 among Datoga, a semi-nomadic pastoral group living in north central Tanzania. A sample of 40 mother-infant dyads were selected to examine the political economy of household constraints and how maternal decisions interact with infant biology to 'embody' social inequality and create patterns of health and illness among young Datoga children. The primary objectives of the research were: 1) Identify the critical periods within early childhood where interactions between household production, nutrition, and health status increase the vulnerability of Datoga infants; 2) Identify how caregivers perceive of changes in infant health and how they use this information to balance allocation of resources between caregiving and household production; 3) Examine how sociopolitical marginalization is impacting Datoga households by determining the intrahousehold variables that act most strongly to constrain women's ability to care for children; 4) Identify how household ecology and caretaking interact with infant development to create patterns of resilience within the mother-infant dyad. The findings from the study indicate that the socioeconomic marginalization of Datoga has severe consequences for child health and well-being. These consequences are evident in the relationship between 'idioms of distress' used to express feelings of vulnerability and disparities in health among both Datoga children and adults. Thus, more attention needs to be paid to the 'socialization' of disease in local contexts and the ways in which the marginalization of Datoga is influencing their exposure to risks for poor health outcomes. Nonetheless, the sensitivity of maternal response has a positive influence on patterns of child health among Datoga, even in the most marginal conditions. Although the cumulative effects of maternal condition during pregnancy and post-natal feeding practices are acting to create patterns of poor nutrition and high illness rates among Datoga children, other variables (such as the amount of time spent in close proximity with the infant) can shift the negative cascade of events and mediate the long-term consequences of even severe adversity.