Effects of iron deficiency on the cognitive functioning of primary school children in southern KwaZulu-Natal.
Rangongo, Mamoloko Florah.
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The aim of this study was to assess the performance of the children in the study on some psychometric tests and to find out whether iron deficiency had any effect on cognitive skills as measured by the selected psychometric tests. The study also wanted to find out if there would be any gender differences on the psychometric tests. A sample of 810 children was selected from eleven schools from the rural Southern part of KwaZulu-Natal. The children were of ages eight to ten years old, were all Zulu speaking and in standard one. Blood samples were taken from all the children to determine iron levels. Psychometric tests viz., the Symbol Digit Modalities Test, Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices, Rey's Auditory Verbal Learning Test and Young's Group Mathematics Test, were all administered to measure cognitive performance. The results showed no significant iron level effects on most of the measured cognitive skills. There were some significant gender effects on all the psychometric tests except for the Maths test. There was general low performance on all the psychometric tests. Therefore, the results highlighted the importance of designing more tests that can be standardized and thus be applicable to Zulu speaking children and other children with similar backgrounds. The tests should also be able to tap into the cognitive skills that may be affected by iron levels. There is also a great need for studies looking at the lower end of iron deficiency.