Previous studies have shown an inconsistency in the association between maternal education and child nutritional status across socioeconomic levels. This may be because the beneficial effects of education are only significant when resources are sufficient but not abundant.
Associations were examined for differences across socioeconomic levels using data collected from 41 rural communities of Benin for 435 children aged 13-36 months. Village level indicators of household wealth were used together with child z-scores to partition the sample into three levels of socio-environment relative to conditions more or less conducive to child growth.
Using an interactive linear regression model it was shown that for the population of children of women who had no more than 4 years of formal schooling, the association of maternal education and child weight differed significantly across the socio-environment. The relationship was flat and non-significant in the lowest socio-environment, positive and significant (P < 0.05) in intermediate conditions, and weakly positive under the best socio-environment conditions. Among children of mothers attaining higher levels of education, an unexpected negative association was found. It could be that maternal education had enabled women to participate in activities outside the home without simultaneously ensuring adequate child care.