The association between weight, height, and head circumference reconsidered

Pediatr Res. 2017 May;81(5):825-830. doi: 10.1038/pr.2017.3. Epub 2017 Jan 9.


Background: Under normal nutritional and health conditions, body height, weight and head circumference are significantly related. We hypothesize that the apparent general association between weight, height, and head circumference of the growing child might be misleading.

Methods: We reanalyzed data of 7,444 boys and 7,375 girls measured in East-Germany between 1986 and 1990, aged from 0 to 7 y with measurements of body length/height, leg length, sitting height, biacromial shoulder breadth, thoracic breadth, thoracic depth, thoracic circumference, body weight, head volume, percentage of body fat, and hip skinfold vertical, using principal component analysis.

Results: Strong associations exist between skeletal growth, fat accumulation, and head volume increments. Yet in spite of this general proportionality, skeletal growth, fat acquisition, and head growth exhibit different patterns. Three components explain between almost 60% and more than 75% of cumulative variance between birth and age 7 y. Parameters of skeletal growth predominantly load on the first component and clearly separate from indicators of fat deposition. After age of 2 y, head volume loads on a separate third component in both sexes indicating independence of head growth.

Conclusion: Under appropriate nutritional and health circumstances, nutritional status, body size, and head circumference are not related.

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Age Factors
  • Anthropometry / methods
  • Body Height*
  • Body Weight*
  • Bone Development
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Germany, East
  • Head / growth & development*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sex Factors