Chapman University psychology student Sohini Mukherjee has been selected to present her work at the prestigious annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Denver this week. Miss Mukherjee’s research, which is part of her senior project, is titled,
Maternal, Environmental, and Social Context Predicts Diarrheal Infection Incidence in Young Children in Sundarbans, India.

Key points related to the research include:

This study examined the factors associated with the incidence of diarrheal disease in children ages five and younger in the poverty-stricken Sundarbans region in India.

As previous data had been collected predominantly from male heads of households, 150 women with children aged five and younger were interviewed, which allowed not only for gathering of information on sociodemographic and environmental factors, but also on maternal psychological well-being and hygiene behaviors which has been largely ignored in these populations.

psychology student Sohini Mukherjee

“We measured women’s perceived social support, as evidence points to a relationship between social networks, maternal mental health, and child development,” said Miss Mukherjee. “We determined that, on average, children suffered from two to three episodes of diarrhea each year.”

The children had increased incidents if they came from low income households and Muslim families, as they are both economically and socially disadvantaged in this region. Children of mothers who reported not washing their hands with soap before eating or feeding their child also had higher rates of diarrhea in the past year, highlighting the importance of hygienic behavior in fighting this disease.

However, the children of women who reported having more social support from their significant others, families, and friends had
incidents of diarrheal disease.

“These findings demonstrate the need to focus more on the mother and her mental health and social context if we hope to successfully combat the devastating diarrheal disease mortality in children in India and other developing countries,” said Miss Mukherjee.

“We are very proud of Sohini,” said Laura Glynn, Ph.D., professor and chair of Chapman’s department of psychology. “Her commitment to furthering understanding of maternal-child health has yielded this wonderful opportunity for her to share her work at a national conference—something quite unique for an undergraduate student.”

This project was funded by Chapman’s Office of Undergraduate Research through a scholarly grant. The project was designed by both Sohini Mukherjee and Dr. Laura Glynn. Data collection took place over June and July of 2015. Miss Mukherjee traveled more than four hours each day to reach the village where the data was collected. Miss Mukherjee is also participating in independent study at Chapman’s Early Human Lifespan and Development Program, and plans to pursue graduate school in public health where she has already been admitted to Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Johns-Hopkins and other top programs.

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