EFFECTS OF MALNUTRITION - MALNUTRITION AND BEHAVIOR
In addition to its effects on growth and cognition, malnutrition also affects behavior. Malnutrition rarely occurs in isolation; it is usually accompanied by deprivation of social, sensory, and environmental stimulation. Thus it is difficult to ascribe behavioral problems seen after malnutrition to that factor alone. Malnourished individuals are apathetic and tend to avoid new experiences, show overly emotional responses to aversive or stressful stimuli, and exhibit less locomotor activity. Malnourished infants are lethargic and suck poorly, which further contributes to poor nutrition. These children are classified as "ineffectual, immature, and dependent" when assessed in nursery school. Animal studies suggest that malnutrition "functionally isolates" the individual, limiting enriched experiences needed for optimal cognitive development. Malnutrition reduces curiosity, the major impetus for learning in young infants.