Influence of maternal stature, pregnancy age, and infant birth weight on growth during childhood in Yucatan, Mexico: A test of the intergenerational effects hypothesis


  • This article was presented at the 2008 AAPA meeting in a symposium in honor of A. Roberto Frisancho, on the occasion of his retirement from the Department of Anthropology of the University of Michigan.


In developing nations, obesity has increased dramatically in the last decade, but a high prevalence of stunting still coexists. The intergenerational influences hypothesis (IIH) is one explanation for this. We test the IIH regarding variation in maternal stature, mother's age at pregnancy, and infant birth weight in relation to risk for overweight and stunting in 206 Maya children (4–6 years old) from Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico. The Maya children are compared with growth references (Frisancho 2008: Anthropometric Standards: An Interactive Nutritional Reference of Body Size and Body Composition for Children and Adults. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press. 335 pp) for height, weight, and body mass index (BMI). Almost 70% of the mothers are shorter than 150 cm. Mothers' height and child's birth weight predict overweight. Children with a mother shorter than 150 cm are less than half as likely (OR = 0.44) to be overweight compared to children whose mothers are equal to or taller than 150 cm. Children with birth weights below 3,000 g are only a third as likely to be overweight (OR = 0.28) than their peers within the range of normal birth weight (3,000–3,500 g). Sex of the child, mother's height, and birth weight predict stunting. Girls are only 40% as likely as boys to be stunted. Children with a mother below 150 cm are 3.6 times more likely of being stunted. Children with birth weights below 3000 g are over 3 times more likely to be stunted relative to children with birth weights within the normal range. Mother's age at pregnancy is not a predictor of overweight or stunting. Our findings conform the IIH and with similar studies of populations undergoing nutritional/epidemiological transitions from traditional to globalized lifestyles. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.