Adverse childhood experiences and child-to-adult height trajectories in the 1958 British birth cohort

Rachel Denholm, Chris Power, Leah Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Background Adverse childhood experiences (maltreatment and household dysfunction) are associated with adult cardiovascular disease (CVD). One possible pathway is through physical development, which has been linked to CVD risk. Our aim was to examine whether adverse childhood experiences are associated with child-to-adult height trajectories. Method The 1958 British birth cohort (n=17 638) includes all born in one week in March 1958, followed up to mid adulthood. Height was measured at 7, 11 and 16 years (y) and adulthood (converted to standard deviation scores (SDS);≥1 height measurement n=16 444, adult leg length n=9180). Multivariate response models were used to examine the associations between childhood experiences (ascertained at 7 y and self-reported at 45 y) and child-to-adult height. Results Childhood neglect, prospectively assessed at 7 y, was associated with shorter stature throughout childhood: for each increment across a score ranging 0-7, average height reduced by 0.06 SDS (males) and 0.05 SDS (females) at 7 y (≈0.3 cm), with smaller deficits (0.03 SDS, ≈0.2 cm) in adulthood, after adjustment for parental height, birthweight and socio-economic factors. In males, the adult deficit was mainly due to shorter leg length. Household dysfunction was associated with shorter stature at 7-11 y, with adjusted deficits from 0.04 to 0.07 SDS per increment across a score ranging 0-7, but not at later ages. Adjusted models showed no associations for retrospectively reported abuse or neglect to 16 y. Conclusions Those with a higher neglect score by 7 y grew more slowly, with deficits through to adulthood. No associations were found for abuse over the longer period to 16 y. Deficits associated with early life neglect and household dysfunction might have implications for adult CVD risks.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdyt169
Pages (from-to)1399-1409
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013


  • Child abuse
  • Child adversity
  • Child maltreatment
  • Child neglect
  • Cohort study
  • Height deficit
  • Height trajectories
  • Household dysfunction


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