Born to Be Wide? Exploring Correlations in Mother and Adolescent Body Mass Index Using Data from the British Household Panel Survey

Heather Brown and Jennifer Roberts

Abstract

The channels contributing to the intergenerational correlation in body mass are not well understood. Decomposition analysis is used to estimate the contribution of maternal characteristics, household income, and adolescent behaviours related to eating and physical activity on the intergenerational correlation in BMI. The analysis uses data on mothers and their adolescent children aged 11 to 15 from the British Household Panel Survey (2004 and 2006). The overall intergenerational correlation in BMI is 0.25. Maternal educational attainment and adolescent participation in some form of physical activity on a daily basis are the largest contributing factors to the intergenerational correlation in BMI. Maternal employment and more than four hours a day of television viewing by the adolescent are also important contributing factors. Overall, observable characteristics explain 11.2% of the intergenerational correlation in BMI.