Gender disparities in child development in the east Asia-Pacific region: a cross-sectional, population-based, multicountry observational study

Elsevier, The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, Volume 1, November 2017
Weber A., Darmstadt G.L., Rao N.
Background Gender differences in child development have been extensively studied in high-income countries, but few data are available from low-income and middle-income countries. Our objective was to assess gender disparities in child development that might arise from differential investment in child health, nutrition, and education in six countries across the east Asia-Pacific region. Methods In this cross-sectional, population-based study we quantified the magnitude of gender differences in child development using the East Asia-Pacific Early Child Development Scales (EAP-ECDS) in six countries (Cambodia, China, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, and Vanuatu). We used stratified random sampling (according to age, residence [urban vs rural], and sex) in all countries to recruit eligible children aged 3–5 years from non-ethnic minority populations with no identified or suspected special educational needs for whom EAP-ECDS scores for five or more of seven domains and urban-rural residence information were available. Gender differences in development associated with four national indicators of gender equality (sex ratio at birth, Gender Development Index, Gender Inequality Index, and Gender Parity Index for primary school enrolment) were also examined. We used generalised estimating equation regression to study moderation of differences by family socioeconomic status and wealth, and structural equation models with maximum likelihood to test mediation through health, nutrition, and education. Findings Between June 1, 2013, and Dec 13, 2013, 7582 eligible children were included from Cambodia (n=1189), China (n=1618), Mongolia (n=1230), Papua New Guinea (n=1639), Timor-Leste (n=1176), and Vanuatu (n=730). Girls had significantly higher development scores than boys in Cambodia (difference in composite score: β=1·87 points, 95% CI 0·29 to 3·45; p=0·747), China (2·66 points, 1·20 to 4·13; p=0·0004), Vanuatu (3·10 points, 1·65 to 4·55; p