Intergenerational influences on the growth of Maya children: The effect of living conditions experienced by mothers and maternal grandmothers during their childhood

Objectives: To test the hypothesis that living conditions experienced by maternal grandmothers (F1 generation) and mothers (F2 generation) during their childhood are related to height and leg length (LL: height2sitting height) of their 6-to-8 year old children (F3 generation). Methods: From September 2011 to June 2012 we obtained height and LL, and calculated z-score values of these measurements for 109 triads (F1, F2, F3) who are Maya living in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. Multiple regression models were adjusted to examine the relation of anthropometric and intergenerational socioeconomic parameters of F1 (house index and family size during childhood) and F2 (paternal job loss during childhood) with the z-score values of height and LL of F3. Results: Children’s height and LL were positively associated with maternal height and LL. This association was relatively stronger in LL. Better categories of grand-maternal house index were significantly associated with higher values of height and LL in grandchildren. Grand-maternal family size was positively related with LL, but not with height. Conclusions: Our findings partially support the hypothesis that living conditions experienced by recent maternal ancestors (F1 and F2) during their growth period influence the growth of descendants (F3). Results suggest that LL is more sensitive to intergenerational influences than is total height and that the transition from a traditional rural lifestyle to urban conditions results in new exposures for risk in human physical growth.