Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-11-2016

Faculty Advisor(s)

Laura M. Glynn


Diarrheal infection is the third leading cause of childhood mortality in India and is responsible for 13% of all deaths per year in children under 5 years of age (Lakshaminarayan & Jayalakshmy, 2015). The Sundarbans in West Bengal is amongst the poorest regions of India and is the epitome of abject deprivation and the acute struggle against geographical and socioeconomic challenges. The incidence of diarrhea in this region is considerably high; about 42,000 reported cases occur per month, and one in five diarrhea cases are reported as severe (with blood in stool). In addition, 37% of children hospitalized for ailments were admitted due to diarrhea (Kanjilal et al., 2013). However, little research has been conducted to determine whether maternal characteristics and behaviours correlate with this incidence in India, though some studies have found certain family characteristics to be protective in other areas such as sub-Saharan Africa (c.f. Boschi-Pinto et al., 2006). The objective of the current study was to investigate sociodemographic, psychological and environmental factors associated with diarrheal infection in children in West Bengal.

A structured interview was administered in Bengali to women who were mothers to children aged five and under in 150 households in the village of Sonakhali of Ramchandrakhali in West Bengal. Door to door data collection was carried out on a random sample of the entire village. Information regarding demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the mother were obtained as well as information about diarrheal incidence during the prior year in children five and under. A validated Bengali version of the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (Zimet et al., 1988) was administered which assesses perceptions of overall social support, as well as particular support from significant others, family, and friends. In addition, mothers were asked to answer questions regarding their beliefs about the causes and methods of prevention of diarrhea.

Among children five and under, 75% of males and 73% of females had at least one incidence of diarrhea in the past year (mean = 2.7). Predictors of incidence included household income, religion, type of home, and perceived social support (all p's< .05). There were no significant associations between the age of the mother, mother's age at marriage, caste, education level and incidence of diarrhea. Notably, the effects of social support remained after adjusting for income, religion, and type of house. These findings suggest that further understanding the epidemiology of childhood diarrhea should not be limited to the thorough examination of environmental factors, but also requires focus on the role of the mother and her psychological states and social context.


Presented at the Spring 2016 Student Research Day at Chapman University.