Background: Clinical determination of mid-parental height is an important part of the assessment of a child's growth, however our clinical impression has been that parents cannot be relied upon to accurately report their own heights. Therefore, we conducted this study to assess the accuracy of parental height self-reporting and its effect on calculated mid-parental target height for children presenting to a pediatric endocrinology office.
Methods: All parents bringing their children for an initial evaluation to a pediatric endocrinology clinic over a period of nine months were questioned and then measured by a pediatric endocrinologist. Parents were blinded to the study. Mid-parental target heights, based on reported and actual height were compared.
Results: There were 241 families: 98 fathers and 217 mothers in our study. Mean measured paternal height was 173.2 cm, self reported 174.9 cm (p < 0.0001), partner reported 177 cm (p = 0.0004). Only 50% of fathers and 58% of mothers reported their height within +/- 2 cm of their measured height, while 15% of fathers and 12% of mothers were inaccurate by more than 4 cm. Mean measured maternal height was 160.6 cm, self-reported 161.1 cm (NS), partner reported 161.7 cm (NS). Inaccuracy of height self-report had a small but significant effect on the mean MPTH (0.4 cm, p = 0.045). Analysis showed that only 70% of MPTH calculated by reported heights fell within +/- 2 cm of MPTH calculated using measured heights, 24% being in +/- 2-4 cm range, and 6% were inaccurate by more than 4 cm.
Conclusion: There is a significant difference in paternal measured versus reported heights with an overall trend for fathers to overestimate their own height. A large subset of parents makes a substantial error in their height self-report, which leads to erroneous MPTH. Inaccuracy is even greater when one parent reports the other parent's height. When a child's growth is in question, measured rather than reported parental heights should be obtained.