Differences were analysed between growth patterns and determinants of physical growth in two groups of normal infants at 24 months. Longitudinal data routinely collected in a mother and child clinic were analysed. At 24 months, 26% of cohort infants were at or below the 10th percentile for length (= 'small' infants); 98 of these were compared with 83 'medium' infants (between the 50th and the 75th percentile, for example). Excessive downward deviation of length percentiles was seen in 80% of 'small' infants. In 20% their birthweight was on the 10th percentile or below; 50% had a mother less than 155 cm tall; maternal stature was closely linked with socioeconomic factors. Of mothers with less than nine years of schooling, 70% had 'small' infants. In 95% of both groups growth attainment at two years could be predicted from data at 12 months. The known factors influencing deviant physical growth overlap with those of mental and social development. Growth deviation by itself may identify infants open to multiple risks, especially if their mothers have a low educational level. Further narrowing of the target group for specialised intervention strategies should be attempted.
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