Sex of preceding sibling and anthropometrics of subsequent offspring at birth and in young adulthood: A population-based study in Sweden

Authors

  • Aline Jelenkovic,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Genetics, Physical Anthropology and Animal Physiology, University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, Leioa, Spain
    2. IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for Science, Bilbao, Spain
    3. Department of Public Health, Hjelt Institute, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
    • Correspondence to: Aline Jelenkovic; Department of Public Health, Hjelt Institute, University of Helsinki, Helsinki 00014, Finland. E-mail: aline.jelenkovic@helsinki.fi

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  • Karri Silventoinen,

    1. Department of Public Health, Hjelt Institute, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
    2. Population Research Unit, Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
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  • Per Tynelius,

    1. Child and Adolescent Public Health Epidemiology, Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Samuli Helle,

    1. Section of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
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  • Finn Rasmussen

    1. Child and Adolescent Public Health Epidemiology, Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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ABSTRACT

In many mammal species with sexual dimorphism producing sons is energetically more demanding to the mother than producing daughters. Although some studies in humans have suggested that offspring born after a brother have a smaller birth weight and adult height when compared with those born after a sister, little is known about this intergenerational cost of producing sons. We aimed to study whether the sex of preceding sibling is associated with anthropometrics of the subsequent child at birth and in young adulthood. This population-based study was carried out on two data sets derived from the Swedish registers. Information on birth weight and length was obtained for 752,723 children of both sexes. Adult weight, height and muscle strength were available for 506,326 men. Multiple linear regression analyses showed that boys and girls born after a brother were, respectively, 18 and 9 g lighter and 0.08 and 0.03 cm (P < 0.001) shorter at birth than those born after a sister. Adjustment for gestational age decreased the magnitude of the associations [10 g and 0.04 cm (P < 0.001) in men and nonsignificant estimates in women], suggesting that part of the lower mean birth weight and length of individuals born after a brother was due to a shorter gestation. In young adulthood, men with a preceding brother showed 0.16 kg more in weight, 0.3% higher body mass index (P < 0.001) and a trend towards reduced height and muscle strength. Our results suggest that even though the sex of the previous child is associated with the anthropometrics of the subsequent child, the effect sizes are very small questioning whether this mechanism has adaptive value in contemporary humans. Am J Phys Anthropol 154:471–478, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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