Height, Age at First Birth, and Lifetime Reproductive Success: A Prospective Cohort Study of Finnish Male and Female Twins.
The associations between height and reproductive success in humans have attracted long-time scientific interest, but in addition to rather mixed previous results, little is still known about the background mechanisms of these associations. We analyzed the association of adult height with age at first birth and lifetime reproductive success using a twin study design that is able to optimally take into account family background and estimate the contributions of genetic and environmental factors. Information on live births as of June 2009 for 7,830 Finnish twins born 1950-1957 was extracted from the national population register. We found evidence for non-linear associations in men, as men in the third sex-specific height quintile had the highest probability of having one to two children, or three or more children at individual level analyses, and also to have any children when analyzing twin pairs discordant for height. Furthermore, the probability of having a spouse was highest in the third height category in men. Short stature was associated with earlier age at first birth in females, explained by correlated genetic factors, but not with lifetime number of children or having a spouse. Our results suggest that average stature may give some advantage for reproduction in males. In females, genetic factors explained the association between short stature and young age at first birth, which may suggest the role of hormonal factors.