Association of early migration with child growth, cognition and behavior in South Africa

Joan Christodoulou, Mary Jane Rotheram‐Borus, Panteha Hayati Rezvan, Robert E. Weiss, Mark Tomlinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The main objective of the study was to examine the association of migration with child growth, cognition and behaviour in South Africa.

Secondary analysis assessing effects of migration on child outcomes among a population cohort of women and children (n = 1238) recruited in Cape Town, South African townships and repeatedly assessed from birth to age eight. Logistic regression models analysed sociodemographic predictors of migration and longitudinal models assessed the association of child migration, with or without their mother, on child growth, cognition and behavioural outcomes.

By 8 years post-birth, 41% of children born in the townships in Cape Town had migrated to the rural Eastern Cape. Staying in Cape Town, or not migrating, was associated with having an older mother. Children who migrated with their mothers were shorter and weighed less than those who did not migrate. Children who migrated had larger vocabularies and those who migrated with their mothers had fewer behavioural problems than children who stayed in Cape Town.

Migration in South Africa between peri-urban Cape Town and rural Eastern Cape areas during a child's early years is common and is associated with both positive and negative child outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-225
Number of pages8
JournalTropical Medicine & International Health
Issue number3
Early online date23 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2022


  • Child development
  • LMIC
  • Maternal and child health
  • Migration
  • South Africa


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