Maternal and Child Health Journal

, 13:847

Body Size and Intelligence in 6-year-olds: Are Offspring of Teenage Mothers at Risk?


    • University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
    • Department of Psychiatry and EpidemiologyUniversity of Pittsburgh
  • Lidush Goldschmidt
    • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • Jennifer A. Willford
    • University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • Sharon L. Leech
    • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • Cynthia Larkby
    • University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • Nancy L. Day
    • University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

DOI: 10.1007/s10995-008-0399-0

Cite this article as:
Cornelius, M.D., Goldschmidt, L., Willford, J.A. et al. Matern Child Health J (2009) 13: 847. doi:10.1007/s10995-008-0399-0


Objectives Children born to teenage mothers are at risk for more physical and cognitive problems than those born to adult mothers. Our objective was to examine differences in size and intelligence between two cohorts of offspring born to adolescent (n = 357) and adult mothers (n = 668) who attended the same prenatal clinic. Methods Two prospective study cohorts assessed children from gestation through age 6 years. The adult cohort was studied in the mid-1980’s and the teen cohort was evaluated in the mid-1990’s. Both samples were of low socio-economic status. The same study design and measures allowed us to adjust for the covariates of size and IQ. Results Offspring of adolescent mothers had a significantly smaller mean head circumference (5 mm) (HC) and higher body mass index (BMI) than offspring of adult mothers. Offspring of adolescent mothers scored significantly lower than the offspring of adult mothers on the Stanford-Binet (SBIS) composite score (4 points), and the quantitative (6.2 points), verbal reasoning (4.8 points), and short-term memory (3.9 points) area scores. Additional predictors of child IQ were maternal IQ, home environment, race, and number of siblings. When child HC was entered into our final regression model for the SBIS, maternal age and HC significantly predicted the composite score, the verbal reasoning, and short-term memory area scores. A 1 cm decrease in HC predicted a 1 point decrease in the SBIS composite score. Conclusions Compared to offspring of adult women, children of adolescent mothers have lower mean scores on cognitive measures, smaller head circumference, and higher BMI. These differences were significant after adjusting for differences between the two groups. Adolescent mothers and their children would benefit from interventions such as parenting support, education about nutritional needs, and advice on enriching the environments of their children.


ChildrenTeenage mothersCognitive developmentGrowthIQBMI

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008