Despite significant progress in improving child survival, Sub-Saharan Africa continues to have some of the worst outcomes of children’s physical growth and early childhood development. This is driven, in large part, by elevated risks for children living in low-income urban communities. The World Health Organization has identified urban health and, in particular, the well-being of children in low-income urban contexts in the developing world as one of the key focus areas for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Kenya’s progress in meeting child health and survival benchmarks, as in other African countries, has been uneven, and least beneficial for children residing in urban slums. Whereas the overall probability of dying before the age of 5 years declined nationally from 102.3 per 1000 in 1990 to 49.4 in 2015, under-5 mortality was 79.8 in slum communities compared to 22 in Nairobi, the capital. Moreover, intra-urban differences, manifested most starkly in slum areas, are becoming so profound that the “urban health advantage” is likely to be wiped out.

This study will determine the extent to which kinship support and marriage benefit children in urban sub-Saharan African settings at a time when both are undergoing rapid transformation. By explicitly linking kinship support to marriage, we will be able to identify the relative contributions of mothers, fathers and extended kin to children’s well-being and apply the findings to develop more effective interventions. The transformative contribution of this study is using the lens of caregiving for infants and children and support for mothers to better understand the relationship between kinship support and unions in urbanizing African contexts.



Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant #5R01HD101613-02

Maryland Population Research Center Seed Grant, University of Maryland

Dean’s Research Initiative Seed Grant, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Maryland

Vice President for Research, University of Maryland