Men who were small babies are less likely to marry

March 29, 2001

Prenatal growth and subsequent marital status: longitudinal study

Men who were small at birth are less likely to marry, finds a study in this week's BMJ. Although the factors that lead men to marry are complex, these findings raise the possibility that early growth restriction may influence the factors involved in partner selection.

Over 3,500 men, born at the Helsinki University Central Hospital, Finland, during 1924-33 were studied. Birth data were linked with school records of height and weight at age 15 and with census information on marital status, social class, and income in 1970.

The 259 men who had never married were 2 cm shorter, 2.4kg lighter, and thinner than the other men at age 15 years. These men also tended to come from lower social classes and had lower income. Even after taking into account all these factors, the association between birth weight and marital status remained significant. These findings were also confirmed by a study of over 1,600 men born in Hertfordshire, England during 1920-30, where a similar relation between weight at birth and adult marital status emerged.

Clearly, the factors that lead men to marry are complex and include both social and biological ones, say the authors. "However, our data raise the possibility that early growth restriction influences the factors involved in partner selection, which may include socialisation, sexuality, personality, and emotional responses," they conclude.

David I W Phillips. Professor of Endocrine and Metabolic Programming, Medical Research Council Environmental Epidemiology Unit, Southampton General Hospital, UK Email:


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