Intergenerational Transmission of Birth Weight Across Three Generations

Marius Lahti-Pulkkinen, Sohinee Bhattacharya, Katri Räikkönen, Clive Osmond, Jane E Norman, Rebecca M. Reynolds

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While previous studies have shown intergenerational transmission of birth weight from mother to child, only one study has assessed whether this continuity persists across three generations. We used the Aberdeen Maternity and Neonatal Databank to examine the intergenerational correlations of birth weight, birth weight adjusted for gestational age and sex, and small- and large for gestational age births among 1457 grandmother-mother-grandchild triads across three generations. All participants were born between 1950 and 2015. The intergenerational transmission was examined with linear regression analyses. Our findings showed that grandmaternal birth weight was associated with grandchild birth weight, independently of prenatal and sociodemographic covariates and maternal birth weight (B=0.12 Standard deviation units, 95% Confidence Interval=0.07, 0.18). Similar intergenerational continuity was found for birth weight adjusted for sex and gestational age, and for small for gestational age births. To conclude, birth weight and fetal growth show intergenerational continuity across three generations. The developmental origins of birth weight and hence later health and disease are already present in earlier generations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1165-1173
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number6
Early online date26 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding and acknowledgements: The study was funded by grants from Tommy’s, the British Heart Foundation and the Medical Research Council (MR/N022556/1), the Academy of Finland and University of Helsinki. We especially want to acknowledge our appreciation for all the support of Tommy’s. The authors declare no conflict of interest.


  • Fetal growth
  • Birth weight
  • Cross-generational
  • Longitudinal
  • Grandmaternal
  • Grandchild
  • Small for gestational age


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