Mixed-longitudinal analysis of growth data from malian adolescent girls: Evidence for compensatory gain?


  • Lisa R. Pawloski

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    1. George Mason University, College of Nursing and Health Science, Fairfax, Virginia 22030
    • College of Nursing and Health Science, George Mason University, 4400 University Dr., MSN 3C4, Fairfax, VA 22030
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Cross-sectional data have previously indicated poor growth and development among adolescent girls in Mali. These data have shown that Malian girls are shorter and lighter than their United States female counterparts. Many studies suggest that this evidence of poor growth and development is due to a combination of poor nutrient intake, high-energy expenditure, and poor access to health care. At adolescence, individuals rarely follow a standard pattern of growth due to different biological timetables and expressions of pubertal growth. By examining velocity of growth, researchers can recognize developmental patterns such as compensatory gain. This study examines the growth rates of Malian girls over a 6-month period. Anthropometric data were collected from a total of 1,045 adolescent girls ages 10–17 years. Height and weights were collected twice from the Segou Coura community in the town of Segou and from the Dioro Arrondissement in 1997. From these data, mixed longitudinal analyses were conducted. Both the height and weight velocity data showed patterns of delayed growth rates when compared with American girls. Although Malian girls are similar to American girls in that they tend to reach their peak height velocity at age 12, the Malian girls demonstrate a longer growth spurt than the American girls. This evidence of greater height velocity may be an indication of compensatory growth, or compensatory gain, and is partially supported from cross-sectional data. While these Malian data do not show much evidence that certain stressors are relieved during adolescence, only more extensive longitudinal data can more fairly examine the issue. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 15:178–186, 2003.©2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.