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Children at Risk: The Role of Family Structure in Latin America and West Africa

Sonalde Desai
Population and Development Review
Vol. 18, No. 4 (Dec., 1992), pp. 689-717
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/1973760
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1973760
Page Count: 29
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Children at Risk: The Role of Family Structure in Latin America and West Africa
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Abstract

Models of the family proposed by the "new household economics" have had a strong influence on researchers and policymakers alike. In extending these models to developing countries, however, relatively little attention has been directed to the applicability of some of their underlying assumptions in diverse cultural settings. Two aspects of these models seem particularly problematic: the assumption of a cohesive family unit with perfect altruism within the family, and lack of consideration of flexible boundaries of the household observed in many cultures. Using data on the nutritional status of children in northeast Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic in Latin America, and in Ghana, Mali, and Senegal in West Africa, this article examines the importance of these two issues in predicting the level of resources available to children. Although parents care about the welfare of their children, their level of altruism varies across different types of families and seems to depend on culturally acceptable practices.

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