Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Social inequalities and children's height in Trinidad and Tobago


Objective: The aim of the study was to report the association of socio-economic factors with child's height.

Design: Cross-sectional study based on a representative national sample of government schools.

Setting: Trinidad and Tobago in 1999.

Subjects: A total of 2608 boys and girls mean age 5.8 y, range 4.38–6.99 y and 3080 mean age 8.6 y, range 7.00–10.44 y olds.

Outcome: Measurement of height and a questionnaire completed by parents. In the analysis height was expressed as standard deviation scores (s.d.s.) based on the British height curves (1990) or height below −1.5 s.d.s.

Results: Ethnicity, parental heights, birthweight, maternal age at child's birth and number of children in the family were the main factors associated with children's height. Lack of piped water supply in the home was the only socio-economic factor consistently associated with height (mean difference in s.d.s. adjusted only for age group, gender and ethnicity −0.192, 95% CI −0.257 to −0.127 and in addition adjusted for the variables listed above −0.080, 95% CI −0.141 to −0.019). Parental education, household overcrowding and employment status were weakly associated with height in the partially adjusted model only. Analysis of severe growth failure gave similar results.

Conclusion: The impact of socio-economic factors on height is marginal in Trinidad and Tobago. As socio-economic factors may have an impact on a broad range of health indicators, height and rates of undernutrition should not be used as sole criteria for assessing progress in decreasing health differentials caused by social inequalities.

Sponsorship: None.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout


  • Amigo, H, Bustos, P, Leone, C & Radrigan, ME (2001). Growth deficits in Chilean school children. J. Nutr., 131, 251–254.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Belicki, T & Szklarska, A (1999). Secular trends in stature in Poland: national and social class-specific. Ann. Hum. Biol., 26, 251–258.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cameron, N (1986). The methods of auxological anthropometry. In:Human Growth. A Comprehensive Treatise. Volume 3. Methodology, Ecological, Genetic, and Nutritional Effects on Growth, ed. F Falkner & JM Tanner, Chapter 1, pp3–46, New York: Plenum Press

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Central Statistical Office, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (1994). 1990 Population and Housing Census. Volume II. Age structure, Religion, Ethnic Group, Education, Port of Spain: Central Statistical Office, Office of the Prime Minister

  • Chinn, S, Hughes, JM & Rona, RJ (1998). Trends in growth and obesity in ethnic groups in Britain. Arch. Dis. Child., 78, 513–517.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Dowding, VM (1981). New assessment of the effects of birth order and socio-economic status on birth weight. Br. Med. J., 282, 683–686.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Freeman, JV, Cole, TJ, Chinn, S, Jones, PRM, White, EM & Preece, MA (1995). Cross sectional stature and weight reference curve for the UK, 1990. Arch. Dis. Child., 73, 17–24.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Garn, SM, Clark, DC & Trowbridge, FL (1973). Tendency toward greater stature in American black children. Am. J. Dis. Child., 126, 164–166.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Guimaraes, LV, Latorre, MD & Barros, MB (1999). Fatores de risco para a ocorrência de déficit em pré-escolares. Cadernos Saude Publica, 15, 605–615.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gulliford, MC, Chinn, S & Rona, RJ (1991). Social environment and height: England and Scotland 1987 and 1988. Arch. Dis. Child., 66, 235–240.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gulliford, MC & Mahabir, D (2001). Utilisation of private by public primary care clinic attenders with diabetes: relationship to health status and social factors. Soc. Sci. Med., 53, 1045–1056.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gulliford, MC, Mahabir, D, Rocke, B, Chinn, S & Rona, R (2001). Overweight, obesity and skinfold thicknesses of children of African or Indian descent in Trinidad and Tobago. Int. J. Epidemiol., 30, 989–998.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hernandez-Diaz, S, Peterson, KE, Dixit, S, Hernandez, B, Parra, S, Sepulveda, J & Rivera, JA (1999). Association of maternal short stature with stunting in Mexican children: common genes vs common environment. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr., 53, 938–945.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Herngreen, WP, Van Buuren, S, Van Wieringen, JC, Reerink, JD, Verloove-VanHorick, SP & Ruys, JH (1994). Growth in length and weight from birth to 2 y of a representative sample of the Netherlands children (born in 1988–89) related to socio-economic status and other background characteristics. Ann. Hum. Biol., 21, 449–463.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Jordan, J, Ruben, M, Hernandez, J, Bebelagua, A, Tanner, JM & Goldstein, H (1975). The 1972 Cuban national growth study as an example of population health monitoring: design and methods. Ann. Hum. Biol., 2, 153–171.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lindgren, G (1976). Height, weight and menarche in Swedish school children in relation to socio-economic and regional factors. Ann. Hum. Biol., 3, 501–528.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Martorell, R & Habicht, J-P (1986). Growth in early childhood in developing countries. In:Human Growth. A Comprehensive Treatise. Volume 3. Methodology, Ecological, Genetic, and Nutritional Effects on Growth, 2nd edn, ed. F Falkner & JM Tanner, Chapter 12, pp241–262, London: Plenum Press

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Mueller, WH (1976). Parent–child correlation for stature and weight and weight among school aged children: a review of 24 studies. Hum. Biol., 48, 379–397.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Nebigil, I, Hizel, S, Tanyer, G, Dallar, Y & Coskun, T (1997). Heights and weights of primary school children of different social background in Ankara, Turkey. J. Trop. Pediat., 43, 297–300.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Northrop-Clewes, CA, Rousahm, EK, Mascie-Taylor, CN & Lunn, PG (2001). Antihelminthic treatment of rural Bangladeshi children: effect on host physiology, growth, and biochemical status. Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 73, 53–60.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Padez, C & Johnston, F (1999). Secular trend in male adult height 1904-1996 in relation to place of residence and parent's educational level in Portugal. Ann. Hum. Biol., 26, 287–298.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Reading, R, Raybould, S & Jarvis, S (1993). Deprivation, low birth weight, and children's height: a comparison between rural and urban areas. Br. Med. J., 307, 1458–1462.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Rona, RJ (2000). The impact of the environment on height in Europe: conceptual and theoretical considerations. Ann. Hum. Biol., 27, 111–126.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Rona, RJ & Altman, DG (1977). National Study of Health and Growth: Standards of attained height, weight and triceps skinfold in English children 5 to 11 y old. Ann. Hum. Biol., 4, 501–523.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Shen, T, Habicht, J-P & Chang, Y (1996). Effect of economic reforms on child growth in urban and rural areas of China. New Engl. J. Med., 335, 400–406.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Simeon, DT, Grantham-McGregor, SM, Callender, JE & Wong, MS (1995). Treatment of Trichuris trichiura infections improves growth, spelling scores and school attendance in some children. J. Nutr., 125, 1875–1883.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sinha, DP (1988). Children of the Caribbean 1945–1984. Progress in Child Survival, its Determinants and Implications, Kingston, Jamaica: Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (PAHO/WHO)

    Google Scholar 

  • Stata Corporation (1999). Stata Release 6. Volume 3. Su-Z, pp420–440, College Station, Txs: Stata Press

  • Stephensen, CB (1999). Burden of infection on growth failure. J. Nutr., 129, (2S Suppl) 534S–538S.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Tanner, JM (1986). Growth as a mirror of the condition of society: secular trends and class distinctions. In:Human Growth. A Multidisciplinary Review, ed. A Demirjian, pp3–34, London: Taylor & Francis

    Google Scholar 

  • Torres, AM, Peterson, KE, de Souza, AC, Orav, EJ, Hughes, M & Chen, LC (2000). Association of diarrhoea and upper respiratory infections with height and height gains in Bangladeshi children aged 5 to 11 y. Bull WHO, 78, 1316–1323.

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • United Nations Development Programme (2000). Human Development Indicators, (accessed 11 August 2000)

  • Voss, LD, Mulligan, J & Betts, PR (1998). Short stature at school entry—an index of social deprivation? (The Wessex Growth study). Child Care Health Devl., 24, 145–156.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • World Bank (2001). (accessed 28 June 2001)

  • Wong, MS, Simeon, DT, Powell, CA & Grantham-McGregor, SM (1994). Geohelminth infections in school-aged children in Jamaica. West Ind. Med. J., 43, 121–122.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors thank the Chief Medical Officer of Trinidad and Tobago for permission to report this work. They also thank the Principal Medical Officer (Community Services), the Ministry of Education, and the staff, pupils and parents of the participating schools for their support of the survey. Special thanks are due to the staff of the Nutrition Division for their skill and dedication in working on the survey.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to R J Rona.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Rona, R., Mahabir, D., Rocke, B. et al. Social inequalities and children's height in Trinidad and Tobago. Eur J Clin Nutr 57, 143–150 (2003).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • height
  • nutritional status
  • socio-economic status

This article is cited by


Quick links