Consequences of Infant Adoption in Taiwan, 1906-1945: the Impact of Regional Context and Household Composition on Child Mortality

Tim Riswick , Radboud University

Little is known about health outcomes after adoption in historical non-Western settings and previous studies have found contradictory results of the influence of adoption on mortality risks. This study investigates if, and how, adoption of infants increased child mortality risks compared to non-adopted children. Moreover, it goes further than existing studies by investigating if, and how, after adoption, household composition and regional context influenced child mortality risks of these adopted children in Taiwan during the period 1906-1945. It uses the Taiwan Historical Household Register Database to answer these questions, estimating univariate and multivariate Cox proportional hazard models. The study demonstrates that child mortality risks of both male and female adopted children were much higher compared to non-adopted children. After adoption, household composition was especially important for adopted girls. In particular, similarly aged siblings increased child mortality risks of girls, indicating that the adoptees suffered the consequences of a reallocation of resources. The negative effect of infant adoption on child mortality was the same in all regional contexts., In sum, the findings of this study underscore the fact that household composition and regional context should be taken into account when investigating child mortality risks, or other indicators of health inequalities.

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 Presented in Session 24. Health and Well-being of the Youngest: Infant and Child Mortality