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A systematic review of lay views about infant size and growth
  1. P Lucas1,
  2. L Arai2,
  3. J Baird3,
  4. J Kleijnen4,
  5. C Law5,
  6. H Roberts2
  1. 1School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2Child Health Research & Policy Unit, Institute of Health Sciences, City University, London, UK
  3. 3MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK
  4. 4Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York, York, UK
  5. 5Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr P Lucas
    School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, 8 Priory Road, Bristol BS8 1TZ, UK; patricia.lucas{at}


Objectives: To understand lay views on infant size and growth and their implications for a British population.

Methods: A systematic review of parental and other lay views about the meanings and importance of infant size and growth using Medline, PsycInfo, CINAHL, Sociological Abstracts, IBSS, ASSIA, British Nursing Index ChildData, Caredata, SIGLE, Dissertation Abstracts (US), Index to Theses. 19 studies, most of which reported the views of mothers, from the US, Canada, the UK and Finland were reviewed.

Results: Notions of healthy size and growth were dominated by the concept of normality. Participants created norms by assessing and comparing size and growth against several reference points. When size or growth differed from these norms, explanations were sought for factors that would account for this difference. When no plausible explanation could be found, growth or size became a worry for parents.

Conclusions: Parents consider the importance of contextual factors when judging what is appropriate or healthy growth. For public health advice to be effective, lay, as well as scientific, findings and values need to be considered.

  • WIC, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children

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  • Published Online First 11 August 2006

  • Funding: This project was funded by the Department of Health, London, UK.

  • Competing interests: None declared.

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