Relationships of Resource Strategies, Family Composition, and Child Growth in Two Rural Timor-Leste Communities

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Subsistence and economic activities undertaken by households in the context of transition from subsistence farming to cash economies are sometimes seen as substitutable with only minimal reference to the households themselves. We use data from in-depth interviews of 190 householders in Ossu (mountains) and Natarbora (coastal plains), Timor-Leste, to query relationships of family composition, resource strategies, and their relationships to children's growth. Principal component analyses of six household composition variables reveal "grandparent and fostered-in children", "two generational households with numerous adults and children", and "smaller households with few adults and fostered-out children", explaining 72% of the variance. A similar procedure with 11 resource variables produced four components explaining 56% of resource variance. Households with grandparents have a pension income and engage in large animal husbandry, and are associated with better standardized BMI for resident children. Households with numerous members (but not grandparents) are more invested in subsistence gardening and are negatively associated with child stature. Salaried income is not associated with household composition, but children in these households are taller than their peers. Consistent differences between the two communities are partially a result of differences in socioecology, but there remain unexplained differences that may relate to cultural practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number273
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


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