Trends in Parent-Child Correlations of Childhood Body Mass Index during the Development of the Obesity Epidemic

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BACKGROUND: The intergenerational resemblance in body mass index may have increased during the development of the obesity epidemic due to changes in environment and/or expression of genetic predisposition.

OBJECTIVES: This study investigates trends in intergenerational correlations of childhood body mass index (BMI; kg/m2) during the emergence of the obesity epidemic.

METHODS: The study population was derived from the Copenhagen School Health Records Register, which includes height and weight measurements since birth year 1930. Mothers and fathers with BMIs available at ages 7 (n = 25,923 and n = 20,972) or 13 years (n = 26,750 and n = 21,397), respectively, were linked through the civil registration system introduced in 1968 to their children with BMIs available at age 7 years. Age- and sex-specific BMI z-scores were calculated. Correlations were estimated across eight intervals of child birth years (1952-1989) separately by sex. Trends in these correlations were examined. Whereas the mother-child correlations reflected the biological relationship, a likely decline in the assignment of non-biological fathers through the registration system across time must be considered when interpreting the father-child correlations.

RESULTS: The BMI correlations between mothers and sons ranged from 0.29-0.36 and they decreased marginally, albeit significantly across time at ages 7-7 years (-0.002/year, p = 0.006), whereas those at 13-7 years remained stable (<0.0004/year, p = 0.96). Mother-daughter correlations ranged from 0.30-0.34, and they were stable at ages 7-7 years (0.0001/year, p = 0.84) and at 13-7 years (0.0004/year, p = 0.56). In contrast, father-son correlations increased significantly during this period, both at ages 7-7 (0.002/year, p = 0.007) and at ages 13-7 years (0.003/year, p<0.001), whereas the increase in father-daughter correlations were insignificant both at ages 7-7 (0.001/year, p = 0.37) and at ages 13-7 years (0.001/year, p = 0.18).

CONCLUSION: During the obesity epidemics development, the intergenerational resemblance with mothers remained stable, whereas the father-child BMI resemblance increased, possibly reflecting changes in family relationships, and unlikely to have influenced the epidemic.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere109932
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2014

ID: 137322458