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Obstetrics - Public Health and Epidemiology

Intergenerational Predictors of Birth Weight in the Philippines: Correlations with Mother’s and Father’s Birth Weight and Test of Maternal Constraint
Published: Friday, July 27, 2012
Author: Christopher W. Kuzawa et al.

by Christopher W. Kuzawa, Dan T. A. Eisenberg


Birth weight (BW) predicts many health outcomes, but the relative contributions of genes and environmental factors to BW remain uncertain. Some studies report stronger mother-offspring than father-offspring BW correlations, with attenuated father-offspring BW correlations when the mother is stunted. These findings have been interpreted as evidence that maternal genetic or environmental factors play an important role in determining birth size, with small maternal size constraining paternal genetic contributions to offspring BW. Here we evaluate mother-offspring and father-offspring birth weight (BW) associations and evaluate whether maternal stunting constrains genetic contributions to offspring birth size.

Methods/Principal Findings

Data include BW of offspring (n?=?1,101) born to female members (n?=?382) and spouses of male members (n?=?275) of a birth cohort (born 1983–84) in Metropolitan Cebu, Philippines. Regression was used to relate parental and offspring BW adjusting for confounders. Resampling testing was used to evaluate whether false paternity could explain any evidence for excess matrilineal inheritance. In a pooled model adjusting for maternal height and confounders, parental BW was a borderline-significantly stronger predictor of offspring BW in mothers compared to fathers (sex of parent interaction p?=?0.068). In separate multivariate models, each kg in mother’s and father’s BW predicted a 271±53 g (p<0.00001) and 132±55 g (p?=?0.017) increase in offspring BW, respectively. Resampling statistics suggested that false paternity rates of >25% and likely 50% would be needed to explain these differences. There was no interaction between maternal stature and maternal BW (interaction p?=?0.520) or paternal BW (p?=?0.545).


Each kg change in mother’s BW predicted twice the change in offspring BW as predicted by a change in father’s BW, consistent with an intergenerational maternal effect on offspring BW. Evidence for excess matrilineal BW heritability at all levels of maternal stature points to indirect genetic, mitochondrial, or epigenetic maternal contributions to offspring fetal growth.