During the calendar year of 1988 a survey of new cases of insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) in children under the age of 15 years in the British Isles was conducted. After cases had been confirmed and permission obtained to contact the families, postal questionnaires were sent to the parents of children diagnosed in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland. Children who developed diabetes were significantly more likely to be heavier at birth in comparison with national reference data. The diabetic children were less likely to have been breast fed, and there were more children than expected whose fathers were in nonmanual occupations. Where there was a first degree relative with IDDM there were positive correlations between the age at diagnosis of the index cases and that of their diabetic fathers and their diabetic siblings, but not their diabetic mothers. A higher proportion of children than expected who were diagnosed under the age of 5 years had fathers with IDDM. Characteristics of family members associated with IDDM in children that might provide pointers to the aetiology of the disease include heavier birth weight, method of infant feeding, the age at onset of IDDM in affected fathers and affected siblings, and the family lifestyle as defined by social class of the father.
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