Stature, sitting height, stature by weight, and head circumference change with varying economic conditions during early childhood. Our hypothesis is that adult head shape, as well as head size, is influenced by changes in childhood nutrition. When economic conditions are bad, nutrition and health suffer, and the result is dolichocephaly. To test this hypothesis, we measured the head length, width, and circumference of 398 adult males in Jordan. Fifty-six percent are ethnic Jordanians, and 44% are ethnic Palestinians. We divided the modern history of Jordan and the West Bank into four periods developed from historical economic data. The results of the study show that the cephalic index (CI) among Jordanians increased significantly with economic improvement but decreased slightly during the best economic period, whereas CI remained stable across all periods among Palestinians. The pattern among Jordanians can be explained in terms of maternal environment and early childhood nutrition. The lack of pattern in Palestinians may be due to changing nursing practices, bottle feeding, or sleeping position. When economic conditions were bad, Jordanian mothers and infants suffered from malnutrition and deficits in health care services during pre- and postnatal periods. Infants were born with very low birth weight and longer heads. However, the highest mean value of head size, circumference, among Jordanians and Palestinians is obtained from individuals who were children during the bad economic period, an unexpected result. No significant linear or quadratic trend was found for either Palestinians' or Jordanians' head circumference over time.
Human Biology 09/2008; 80(4):393-407. DOI:10.3378/1534-6617-80.4.393 · 1.52 Impact Factor