Maternal Subjective Wellbeing and the Cognitive and Socioemotional Outcomes of 3- to 4-Year-Old Children in Nigeria


Evidence linking maternal subjective wellbeing (SWB) to early childhood development (ECD) is scarce. Subjective wellbeing measures an individual’s negative and positive affect, life satisfaction, and optimism for the future. During ECD, growth occurs in family niches where a mother’s physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing affects her child through processes that harness motor, cognitive, and socioemotional functioning. Few studies in Nigeria have examined the SWB of women and much less its association with ECD outcomes. This study examined the association of maternal and caregiver SWB with child literacy and cognitive and socioemotional indices. We posit that a primary caregiver’s dissatisfaction with life and hopelessness may predispose their child to poorer developmental outcomes. We conducted a structural equation modeling using Stats 16 E and data from a nationally representative sample of Nigerian women 15 to 24 years and their focal child 3- to −4 years old (N = 3176). Findings suggest an average to a high level of SWB among the women. The SWB construct had a weak, inverse association with child outcomes. The weak direct path does not change when standardized or mediated by family investments such as early education, children’s books, or stimulating activities with the child (total effects −0.04). The results also highlight the positive strength of the association of family investments and its robust path to child outcomes (total effects, 0.79, p < 0.001). The study suggests that SWB is a weak proxy for mental health. Findings also underscore the need to invest in child development, child engagement, and family strengthening programs.


Social Work

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Journal of Child and Family Studies



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