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A study of African families found that children who lost their mothers before age 15 tended to be shorter, left school sooner and were poorer over the course of their lives, an effect that was not correlated with losing a father.

Stefan Dercon, from the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, said economic aid organizations typically target families who have lost the family breadwinner, typically the father.  But the mother's role in making sure children are fed and cared for may be even more important.

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