Does a Mother's Childhood Affect Her Children?

April 27, 2009

Investigators have found that height can be a consequence of poor childhood conditions, and may indicate a relationship between health of the mother during her childhood and the health of her future children.

Here’s some news with more than a trace of “yuck” factor. I’m not eager to share that little gem with parents as of yet.

Also hitting the mainstream news is a study published in the new issue of JAMA that has found an inverse association between maternal height and child mortality in India. Researchers led by S. V. Subramanian, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, used data from India’s 2005-2006 National Family Health Survey, which included more than 50,000 children under the age of five years. They found that children whose mothers were shorter than 4 feet 5 inches tall were 70% more likely to die than the children of mothers standing 5 feet 3 inches or taller. While children with fathers of short stature had an increased risk of being underweight or having stunted growth, the risk for mortality did not increase.

The investigators have pointed out that height can be a consequence of poor childhood conditions, and that this research may indicate a relationship between health of the mother during her own childhood and the health of her future children. This seems plausible, but of course, the jury is out until more research is conducted. Still, given, as the press release points out, that 2 million Indian children under the age of 5 died in 2006, perhaps this will provide another little nudge to policy makers the world over who aren’t giving children’s healthcare the attention it deserves.