Objectives: To determine the extent to which childhood short stature is associated with cognitive, behavioural and chronic health problems, and whether these problems could be attributed to recognized adverse biological, psychosocial or psychological factors.
Methodology: At their first antenatal session, 8556 women were enrolled in a prospective study of pregnancy. When their children were 4 and 6 years of age, mothers completed a detailed questionnaire concerning their child's health and behaviour. A Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R) was completed by the child at 5 years of age. Z scores were used to categorize height measurements in 3986 children. The relationship of these height categories with the child's health, and behavioural and cognitive problems was then examined.
Results: No association was found between height and symptoms of chronic disease or behaviour problems in boys or girls. On the unadjusted analysis, mean PPVT-R scores were significantly lower in boys with heights < 3 percentile and 3-< 10 percentile compared with study children between 10 to 90 percentile (P < 0.01). Scores were similarly significantly lower in girls with heights < 3 percentile and 3-10 percentile (P = 0.01). Even after adjusting for psychosocial and biological confounders, short stature remained a significant predictor for lower PPVT-R scores in both boys and girls, although height only accounted for 1.1% of the variance in scores in boys and 0.5% of the variance in PPVT-R scores in girls. Psychosocial factors had a greater role than height in determining PPVT-R scores at 5 years of age.
Conclusions: These findings suggest a significant, though small, association between height and PPVT-R scores at 5 years of age, independent of psychosocial disadvantage and known biological risk factors.