Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BackgroundStunting, an indicator of restricted linear growth, has become a primary measure of childhood undernutrition due to its persistent high prevalence globally, and importance for health and development. Although the etiology is recognized as complex, most analyses have focused on social and biomedical determinants, with limited attention on psychological factors affecting care and nurturing in the home. We assessed whether the psychological distress of parents is related to child linear growth and stunting, and documented the associated risk factors, and examined the relationship between parental distress and behavioral and other risk factors for stunting.MethodsWe used data from the Indonesia National Health Survey 2013, including 46,315 children 6-59 months of age. Multivariate linear, logistic, and multilevel multinomial logistic regression, using survey weights, were used to assess the relationship between parental distress, as assessed by the WHO Self Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ20), with height-for-age z score (HAZ), stunting, and behavioral and other risk factors for stunting.ResultsMaternal, paternal and parental distress (i.e. both maternal and paternal distress) were associated with reduced linear growth of the children by 0.086 (95% CI -0.17, -0.00), 0.11 (95% CI -0.24, -0.02) and 0.19 (95% CI -0.37, -0.00) HAZ-scores, respectively. Maternal and paternal distress increased the risk of mild stunting (HAZ ConclusionsMaternal, paternal and parental stress were associated with reduced linear growth of children. These findings highlight the complex etiology of stunting and suggest nutritional and other biomedical interventions are insufficient, and that promotion of mental and behavioral health programs for parents must be pursued as part of a comprehensive strategy to enhance child growth and development, i.e. improved caretaker capacity, integrated community development, improved parenting skills, as well as reduced gender discrimination, and domestic violence.

Original publication




Journal article


PloS one

Publication Date





Semarang Health Polytechnic Ministry of Health - Poltekkes Kemenkes Semarang, Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia.


Humans, Growth Disorders, Body Height, Health Surveys, Prevalence, Risk Factors, Cross-Sectional Studies, Parents, Nutritional Status, Socioeconomic Factors, Child, Preschool, Infant, Rural Population, Educational Status, Indonesia, Female, Male, Psychological Distress