Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor Ann Herring




This study examines changes in the anthropometric measurements of stature, mass and the Body Mass Index (BMI) among Burlington, Ontario children during the last half of the 20th century. Few studies have investigated changes in these variables within a Canadian context; fewer still have examined them using a large mixed longitudinal sample of children conducted over a 20-year period (The Burlington Growth Study, 1952-1972). When the Burlington Growth Study profile (n = 1380) is compared to that for a contemporary sample of Burlington children (n = 252), it is evident that stature, mass and BMI have risen among children growing up in the 1990s compared to those who matured in the 1950s to 1970s. These increases, albeit small, are statistically significant (p < 0.001). The prevalence of overweight children has grown substantially as well, with a particularly striking two-fold increase in overweight girls (p < 0.001). These findings indicate that Canadian children are participating in the global rise in these variables, including an epidemic of children at risk for and already overweight. Tracking of BMI values for 220 children in the Burlington Growth Study over a nine-year period revealed significant associations for inter-age comparisons and BMI at age 14 compared to younger ages (p < 0.001). Further study of the "tracking" phenomenon may lead to the identification of a critical age for the onset of obesity and, in turn, to the development of appropriate age-specific public health interventions.

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