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Abstract

This study investigated a hypothesis of dependence of child height and weight on the month of their birth. The sample comprised 1,241 subjects, 568 boys and 673 girls, age 6–20 years, from villages in Olsztyn Province, Northeast Poland. Individuals' height and weight data were standardized by sex and age to allow grouping of individuals born in the same month irrespective of their sex and age at examination. Subjects born in October to March proved to be significantly taller and heavier than those born in April to September. The magnitude of differences between the semiannual groupings equaled 13.1% of a standard deviation (SD) in height (P = 0.03) and 14.2% of SD in weight (P = 0.02). The month-of-birth effect was much stronger for children characterized by high socioeconomic status, where these differences amounted to 39.1% of SD in height (P = 0.02) and 49.4% of SD in weight (P = 0.01). There were no regular changes of the effect with age and no differences between the sexes were found. Fitted cosine functions identified the highest values of examined traits for individuals born in December with the lowest values being found in those born in June. Possible explanations of the month-of-birth effect are considered in terms of age categorizing, seasonal variety of growth rates, as well as birth-related or conception-related global, hemispheric, and local factors. This study rejects the first two possibilities and suggests this effect requires further research to be conducted in various geographical locations, climates, and cultures, on humans as well as on other species. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 16:31–42, 2004. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.