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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37356. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037356. Epub 2012 May 23.

Children of low socioeconomic status show accelerated linear growth in early childhood; results from the Generation R Study.

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  • 1The Generation R Study Group, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



People of low socioeconomic status are shorter than those of high socioeconomic status. The first two years of life being critical for height development, we hypothesized that a low socioeconomic status is associated with a slower linear growth in early childhood. We studied maternal educational level (high, mid-high, mid-low, and low) as a measure of socioeconomic status and its association with repeatedly measured height in children aged 0-2 years, and also examined to what extent known determinants of postnatal growth contribute to this association.


This study was based on data from 2972 mothers with a Dutch ethnicity, and their children participating in The Generation R Study, a population-based cohort study in Rotterdam, The Netherlands (participation rate 61%). All children were born between April 2002 and January 2006. Height was measured at 2 months (mid-90% range 1.0-3.9), 6 months (mid-90% range 5.6-11.4), 14 months (mid-90% range 13.7-17.9) and 25 months of age (mid-90% range 23.6-29.6).


At 2 months, children in the lowest educational subgroup were shorter than those in the highest (difference: -0.87 cm; 95% CI: -1.16, -0.58). Between 1 and 18 months, they grew faster than their counterparts. By 14 months, children in the lowest educational subgroup were taller than those in the highest (difference at 14 months: 0.40 cm; 95% CI: 0.08,0.72). Adjustment for other determinants of postnatal growth did not explain the taller height. On the contrary, the differences became even larger (difference at 14 months: 0.61 cm; 95% CI: 0.26,0.95; and at 25 months: 1.00 cm; 95% CI: 0.57,1.43)


Compared with children of high socioeconomic status, those of low socioeconomic status show an accelerated linear growth until the 18th month of life, leading to an overcompensation of their initial height deficit. The long-term consequences of these findings remain unclear and require further study.

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