Human Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 787–799 | Cite as

Rural Livelihood Variation and its Effects on Child Growth in Timor-Leste

  • Phoebe R. SpencerEmail author
  • Katherine A. Sanders
  • Debra S. Judge


Economic development introduces opportunities for subsistence households to diversify income sources. Timor-Leste is undergoing this transition; however, little is known about the patterns of household strategies and the effects of rural development on child wellbeing. We derive strategies from 190 households in two rural Timor-Leste communities and examine the links between resource strategies and child growth using linear mixed modeling. Children’s z-height, z-weight, and z-BMI are well below international standards. We find agriculture remains predominantly subsistence-based, with some reliance on cash flow from government pensions and salaries. Households with stable income sources are better able to accumulate wealth, and children living in salaried households have better z-height. However, child growth is best predicted by individual-level factors rather than household ecology. Substantial variation in household strategy and little association of strategy with growth indicates there is no ‘best’ strategy in this transitioning environment.


East Timor Child growth Livelihood strategies Development 



This research was undertaken with the permission of the Ministry of Health, Timor-Leste. Thank you to the participating families from Ossu and Natarbora, and to the health clinics and local leaders for their support. We thank our local research assistants, Raimundo da Costa and Dedi Wibowo, for their invaluable contributions to this project. Human Ethics approval was granted by the University of Western Australia (RA/4/1/2401) and the Ministry of Health, Timor-Leste.


The study was funded by the Australian Research Council (DP 120101588 to Debra Judge et al.), and by the School of Human Sciences, University of Western Australia.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary File 1 (DOCX 102 kb)
10745_2018_27_MOESM2_ESM.docx (36 kb)
Supplementary File 2 (DOCX 35 kb)
10745_2018_27_MOESM3_ESM.docx (47 kb)
Supplementary File 3 (DOCX 47 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Human SciencesUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

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