Early influences on the secular change in adult height between the parents and children of the 1958 birth cohort

Ann Hum Biol. 1991 Mar-Apr;18(2):127-36. doi: 10.1080/03014469100001472.


The present account is of data available from the 1958 British national birth cohort and its follow-up to the age of 23 years. It shows an increase in adult height between the cohort members and their parents, amounting to an average 1.2 +/- 0.11 (SEM) cm between the daughters and their mothers and 3.0 +/- 0.12 cm between the sons and their fathers. Factors in early life which contributed jointly to a significant increase in adult height included, as well as sex and parental height, birthweight and maternal pre-pregnant weight, while increasing gestational age had a negative effect. Overall these factors accounted for 71% of the variance of the cohort members' height. Measuring the intergenerational difference between individual pairs of sons and father and daughters and mothers allows to some extent for social and genetic influences. This showed that the size of the difference was increased by increasing intrauterine growth rate, and falling paternal social class. These findings demonstrate again the lifelong influence on offspring of circumstances pertaining at their birth and explain why it may take more than one generation to overcome the effects of childhood disadvantage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Weight
  • Body Height / genetics*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Regression Analysis
  • Statistics as Topic
  • United Kingdom