Maternal and Early Childhood Determinants of Women's Body Size in Midlife: Overall Cohort and Sibling Analyses

Am J Epidemiol. 2017 Mar 1;185(5):385-394. doi: 10.1093/aje/kww222.


Observational evidence suggests that adult body size has its roots earlier in life, yet few life-course studies have data on siblings with which to control for family-level confounding. Using prospective data from the Early Determinants of Mammographic Density Study (n = 1,108; 1959-2008), we examined the association of maternal prepregnancy body mass index (BMI; weight (kg)/height (m)2), gestational weight gain (GWG), birth size, and childhood growth factors with adult BMI in daughters at midlife using quantile, linear, and logistic regression models. We compared overall cohort findings (n = 1,108) with sibling differences (n = 246 sibling sets). Results derived by all 3 regression methods supported positive and independent associations of prepregnancy BMI, GWG, and percentile change in early childhood growth with BMI in daughters at midlife. Sibling analyses demonstrated that higher GWG was independently related to a higher adult BMI in daughters, particularly for the highest 90th quantile of adult BMI (β = 0.64 (standard error, 0.26) BMI units). Greater increases in weight percentiles between 1 and 4 years of age within siblings were also associated with higher adult BMI in the 75th quantile (β = 0.06 (standard error, 0.03) kg). Thus, even after consideration of the role of family-level fixed effects, maternal GWG and childhood weight gain are associated with adult body size in midlife.

Keywords: body mass index; catch-up growth; gestational weight gain; life course; obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Siblings
  • Weight Gain / physiology