Study:“Violent Conflicts and Children’s Development: Evidence from Colombia”
PI: Duque, Valentina
Affiliation: Columbia University
Funding Partner: IIE
Data Source(s): Colombia Household Survey: Hogares Comunitarios de Bienestar
Method(s): Sibling Fixed Effects;
Geographic Location: Colombia
This study investigates the effects of adverse conditions in-utero and in early childhood on children’s physical and cognitive development and explores potential mechanisms through which these adversities affect children. The focus of this study is on violent conflicts that represent a significant shock to the well-being of many households in developing countries, using data from Colombia. Using a rich household survey that includes detailed information on child/family outcomes and the geographic location of a child while in-utero and in childhood allows for identification of the exact exposure to violence in these periods. Sudden changes in violence are measured using the occurrence of massacres (defined as the intentional killing of four or more people by another person or group) in each month-municipality.
Results show that exposure to violence in early-life reduce child’s height-for-age Z-scores and cognitive test scores. Regarding potential mechanisms, the results show that violence is negatively associated with breastfeeding, protein consumption, and maternal employment, and positively associated with having an absent father. Violence also deteriorates parenting: psychological aggression increases, and parental time investments and other investments that stimulate a child’s cognitive development fall. These results suggest that maternal stress is an important pathway through which violence harm children.