IFGH 2012: The Socio-Cultural Consequences of Child Disabilities on Women’s Lives in Rural Bangladesh: Findings from a Qualitative Study

January 29, 2012


Authors:Khan R., Sultana M., Blum LS.

Author Affiliations: International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR, B)

Option 1– Scientific / Empirical Research Findings Presented as – Oral Presentation (unable to present)


While child morbidity and mortality has gained much attention from public health professionals and policy makers, child disabilities have remained unexplored. Children who survive births involving severe obstetric complications can suffer from long-term physical and mental disabilities, which can have socio cultural consequences on their mothers and families. The present study explored social and psychological consequences on mothers of children who suffered from a disability associated with a complicated childbirth.


The research was conducted in Matlab, Bangladesh between January 2007 and June 2008 as a part of a larger maternal morbidity study. Methods included open-ended interviews with women (9) experienced severe complications during childbirth, which subsequently affected their children’s normal physical and mental growth, their husbands (4), and other family members (5).


Most family members were initially unwilling to acknowledge that the child had a disability. Once the problem was recognized, care seeking was with traditional healers, with subsequent treatment obtained from medical specialists and physiotherapists .Over time, treatment was terminated due to insufficient funds and the distance to facilities. Few mothers and family members attributed the child’s condition to childbirth, rather linking the disability to supernatural beings and childhood disease. Mothers provided the primary care for these children, which was extremely time consuming, limiting their ability to carry out household chores and care for other children, restricting mobility in the community, and reducing their ability to maintain personal hygiene. Misunderstandings about the cause of child disabilities and lack of information regarding appropriate care lead to confusion regarding treatment.


Rural areas in Bangladesh people often do not pay attention on safe delivery. Planners and programmers should develop ways to raise awareness in this regard. To avoid pregnancy-related complications proper referral mechanisms with functional emergency obstetric and gynecological care need to be made available within the community.


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