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Authors: Yi Lu, Anna Pearce, and Leah Li

Height growth is an important biomarker for early life exposures that influence later disease risk. Previous studies show that ethnic minority children in the UK tend to be born lighter but experience more rapid infancy growth than White peers. However, whether subsequent child-to-adolescent growth differs by ethnic group is insufficiently understood. We used the data from 15,239 singletons in the UK Millennium Cohort Study and applied mixed-effects cubic growth models to examine ethnic differences in height trajectories between 3y and 14y. Models were subsequently adjusted for potential early life explanatory factors. Compared with White counterparts, South Asian children had lower birthweight and shorter parents on average, but were slightly taller at 3y by 0.5cm [95% CI: 0.2–0.9] and had comparable childhood and adolescent trajectories, except that girls had a slower growth in adolescence. Height of South Asians relative to White children increased after adjusting for birthweight (taller by 1.3cm at 3y). Black African/Caribbeans were taller than White children at all ages between 3y and 14y (at 3y boys: 2.2cm, 1.2–2.7; girls: 3.2cm, 2.6–3.8) with height differences widening in childhood and reducing in adolescence. Adjustment for potential explanatory factors did not alter these differences. Despite having lower birthweight, contemporary UK South Asian children had comparable child-to-adolescent growth as White children. Black African/​Caribbeans were considerably taller than other ethnic groups. Future research is needed in understanding the role of genetic and other environmental factors (such as diet) in these distinct growth patterns across ethnic groups and their health implications.

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Childhood maltreatment types (neglect and psychological, physical or sexual abuse) are associated with many poor outcomes in adulthood. Yet, research mainly focuses on the cumulative adversity burden rather than specificities and commonalities of associations with adult outcomes and intervening pathways. This overview therefore summarises evidence from several research studies using the 1958 British Birth Cohort on specific maltreatment types, child development trajectories, adult intermediaries and outcomes. About one in five participants were identified as neglected or abused in childhood. Neglect was associated with key dimensions of development: slower height growth, delayed maturation, faster BMI gain, and poorer emotional and cognitive development. Associated adulthood outcomes included harmful behaviours (notably smoking), poorer physical health (shorter height, excess BMI, poorer blood lipids and glucose, poor-rated health and physical functioning), worse mental health, lower socio-economic circumstances (e.g. poorer living conditions) and elevated mortality in mid-adulthood. Childhood abuse associations were less widespread and were often only for specific types: most were unrelated to childhood height and cognitive abilities, but all were associated with poorer child emotional development, adult mental health, smoking, blood lipids and self-rated health. Additionally, physical abuse was associated with faster BMI gain, higher adult BMI, blood glucose, inflammation and mortality in mid-adulthood; sexual abuse with faster BMI gain, higher adult BMI, poor physical functioning at 50y and higher mortality in mid-adulthood. Adult health measures associated with child maltreatment are key predictors of serious disease, disability and death. Therefore, child maltreatment associations with these measures represent an important burden for individuals and society.

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The goal of global gender equality is articulated in the fifth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5). This objective signifies the global community’s recognition, for the first time, of the central role that gender equality plays in sustainable development. However, the importance of gender equality in the Sustainable Development Goals goes beyond SDG 5. Issues of equality, and specifically gender equality, are interwoven throughout the SDGs and are central to both SDG targets and their related efforts that range in scope from the individual through macro-national and global political institutions.

Independent of the SDGs, adolescent health and well-being have recently emerged as national and global priorities (Patton et al, 2016). For some, the increased importance of adolescents and youth reflects the impressive child survival successes under the MDGs (Bhutta et al, 2019). It is also an acknowledgement that this segment of the population represents a political and social force; there is a critical need to support young people’s growth and development if they are to participate in national growth and development. The SDG era (2015–30) provides an opportunity to highlight the needs of adolescents worldwide, by putting a growing body of longitudinal evidence into practice in the evaluation of SDG-relevant programmes, tracking the achievement of SDG targets among adolescents, and ultimately developing policies that ensure no one, especially this next generation of national and global leaders, is left behind. In order to ensure just and sustainable global development, policy makers must understand the experiences and concerns of adolescents around the world. However, despite their critical role in global development, adolescents are essentially absent from most SDG indicators (Guglielmi and Jones, 2019

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