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Ann Hum Biol. 2008 Sep-Oct;35(5):518-34. doi: 10.1080/03014460802294250.

Childhood circumstances and anthropometry: the Boyd Orr cohort.

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  • 1Department of Social Medicine, Bristol BS8 2PR, UK.



Childhood environment is known to affect stature in childhood and adulthood. Peak growth for different anthropometric measures occurs at different times and so associations with childhood conditions that vary across different components of stature may indicate periods of growth that are particularly influenced by environmental factors.


The study examined relationships between anthropometric measurements (foot length, shoulder breadth, height, trunk and leg length) and childhood exposures (breast-feeding, birth order, household income, household food expenditure, social class, crowding, number of children in the household, and household diet) in 2376 members of the Boyd Orr cohort aged 2-14 years.


All childhood exposures were associated with childhood anthropometric measures to some degree. In multivariable models, the most consistent relationships were positive associations of anthropometric measures with ever being breast-fed, decreasing number of children in the household and, in boys, increasing household income. There was a steadily decreasing gradient in the strength of associations across different anthropometric measures; the strongest were observed with height followed by leg length, foot length, trunk and shoulder breadth.


The individual components of stature most strongly associated with childhood environment in this age group were leg and foot length.

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