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Growth maturation and body composition The fels longitudinal study 1929Ц1991. By Alex F. Roche. Cambridge Cambridge University Press. 1992. xii + 282 pp. ISBN 0-521-37449-9. $64

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overview of the data base, “a sample of conTHEFELSLONGITUDINAL
1929-1991. venience”(p. 15) composed of individuals livBy Alex F. Roche. Cambridge: Cambridge ing in southwestern Ohio at the time of enUniversity Press. 1992. xii + 282 pp. rollment, mostly white: 1,036 individuals,
ISBN 0-521-37449-9. $64.95 (cloth).
344 participants who are second generation,
90 who are third, and at publication, 1 child
who had a great grandparent studied since
Initiated in 1929, the Fels Research Insti- birth. From this data base have come huntute began in a climate of national concern dreds of substantive analyses (308 articles
for the effects of the Great Depression on are cited in the present volume) that have
children. Anyone currently involved in hu- formed the basis for numerous subsequent
man growth and development, schooled on growth study designs, and it continues to be
the extensive literature arising from the the basis for the WHO reference internaFels longitudinal studies, will find the intro- tionally employed for assessment of infants
duction to this volume engaging. In “A Little from birth to 23 months of age.
History,” the background of the Institute
These data have of necessity been the
and the research it is now so reknowned for source of considerable efforts directed at the
reads like a family history. The Fels Re- development of management and methods
search Institute is described as the brain- for serial data analyses (Chapter 2). Discuschild of two close friends, Arthur Morgan sion of “the well-planned long-term longituand Samuel Fels. Morgan, then president of dinal study,” “The need for accurate data,”
Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, “Quality control,” “Data management,” “Inwas interested in the factors responsible for terpolation,’’and “Statistical analyses in the
individual differences. Fels, a Philadelphia Fels Longitudinal Study” by someone with
philanthropist, supported this research with the experience of Alex Roche should be rethis stated purpose: “The principal initial quired reading for all serious students of
problem to which the organization shall de- growth and development. Of particular note
vote its energies is the furtherance of knowl- is the historical overview of statistical apedge of the effect of physical, emotional, and proaches to the description of growth data in
nutritional environment during and shortly the latter section. In addition, it is in these
after the period of gestation upon the physi- early chapters that Roche offers a rare percal and mental constitution of the child sonal view on research when he cautions
that improvements in equipment or tech(p. 4).
The immense data that has accrued from niques should be adopted with discretion
the vision of these men was initiated with an into a long-term study protocol. In the style
annual budget of $5,000 and a staff of three. of the volume, he summarizes his views with
Certainly, for anyone who has been involved words of Alexander Pope (p. 24):
in the work required to maintain a longitudinal study, the history of what is now a
documentation of three generations of huBe not the first by whom the new are tried,
man life span is impressive. These data are
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
a testimonial to the determination of numerous people whose careers shaped much of
our scientific knowledge in growth and development in this century. Sixty-three years
In the remainder of the volume, the “book
after its initiation we have the privilege to describes the progress that has been made
view the outcome and present status of this during the first 60 years of the Fels Longitulong-lived study.
dinal Study of Growth, Maturation and
In view of the enormous impact that anal- Body Composition. The remarkable nature
yses of Fels data have had on both research of the study justifies this volume” (p. 1). The
and clinical practice in growth and develop- data are reported through the lens of the
ment in the latter half of the twentieth cen- relevant publications grouped as (Chapter
tury, it is most informative to have a clear 3) Prenatal, familial and genetic studies,
(Chapter 4) Physical growth, (Chapter 5)
Physical maturity, (Chapter 6) Skeletal and
dental data, and (Chapter 7) Body composition and risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
This book is an ambitious project. A venture with a scope this large requires clarity
of organization and presentation to succeed,
and in some ways this volume suffers in this
regard. Chapters 2,6, and 7 may be the best
in the book in terms of coherence of conceptualization and thematic integrity. In the
analysis and presentation of skeletal and
dental maturation deriving from the Fels
data (Chapter 6 ) ,one cannot help but have a
renewed respect for the tremendous contributions of Stanley Garn to twentieth-century concepts of dental and bone growth and
maturation. Chapter 7 reviews the large
body of work conducted a t the Fels since the
mid 1970s on body composition and risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
However, often in the broad aims of this
volume, details come to override coherence.
The placement of common topics in multiple
chapters leads to a confusing sense of the
work, when distracting paragraphs appear
awkwardly out of context. Additionally,
work on topics that are not clearly categorical under the chapter headings appear suddenly, like grammatically incorrect punctuation marks in the midst of unrelated
subjects. For example, Chapter 4 (Physical
growth) contains a subheading of “Age
changes in anthropometric variables” (p. 70)
that begins with a discussion of the growth
curve of one individual’s lengthhtature from
1 to 56 years of age, a unique data set that
forms the centerpiece for a discussion of
changes in growth rates with age. This is
followed by a discussion of maturational
changes in secondary sexual characteristics
during adolescence (a topic that reappears
on its own in Chapter 5). Abruptly, a paragraph discussing radiographically determined scalp thicknesses is directly interposed between the discussion of adolescence
and a paragraph on continuities and discontinuities in infant weight and length, the
latter a transition into a discussion of mathematical modelling of serial length, weight,
and head circumference data.
This organizational style is combined with
a distracting mode of presentation. For
example, in Chapter 5 (Physical maturation and development) a section discussing
the “onset of ossification” begins, “Counting
the number of ossified centers is the simplest method of grading skeletal maturity,
but this method provided insufficient information when it was applied to the carpal
bones of the hand-wrist (Garn 1960a).
Consequently, Sontag, Snell, and Anderson
(1939) applied this method to the left side
of the whole skeleton and reported the number of ossification centers present between
birth and 5 years” (p. 122). Clearly, work
published in 1939 cannot be consequent to
that published in 1960, and this leads to an
unfortunate diversion in the course of reading.
Finally, one of the most serious difficulties in this volume is the lack of integration
of the Fels data analyses with those published elsewhere. Not only does this make
for a provincial history of the Fels research
itself, but it does a disservice to readers unfamiliar with the historical progression of
growth and development studies. For example, it is stated that “Chumlea (1982) also
reviewed physical growth during adolescence. . . . Chumlea emphasized the variability in timing of sexual maturation and
noted that this is more marked than the differences in the sequence of changes” (p. 70).
This leaves the impression that the notions
of individual tempo in adolescent maturation originated in this 1982 article. It is up to
the reader to recognize that these analyses
of Fels data echo the much earlier work of
Tanner and others. Likewise, in discussing
“weight at menarche,” the conclusion that
“Consequently, the concept of a critical
weight at menarche is not applicable to individuals and should be discarded (p. 147)
follows the citation of three articles, none of
which are those of a major proponent of this
controversial issue, Rose Frisch. By not providing the context of research conducted
elsewhere that often predates the publications employing the Fels data and, in fact,
often prompted Fels analyses, this volume
provides a misleading view for nonspecialists. In this way, the book is the title:
Growth, Maturation and Body Composition:
The Fels Longitudinal Study 1929-1991. It
is honest in its presentation in promising no
more than it delivers.
When I began this book, I was expecting a
synthesis of the work conducted at the Fels
in the context of method and theory in
growth and development during this time
period with critical reflections by a man who
has spent many years at Fels and has been a
major influence on growth and development
studies in the United States for decades. In
this, I was disappointed. Instead, the book is
primarily a n annotated bibliography and
certainly a valuable contribution. However,
as a culmination of so much important work,
the book does not embrace its potential to
place the Fels data in historical context,
and, in the final analysis, the author appears to be groping towards a synthesis that
is never quite attained. While one cannot
Bowler, PJ (1993) The Norton History of the
Environmental Sciences. New York: W.
W. Norton, $15.95 (paper).
Dettwyler, K (1993) Dancing Skeletons: Life
and Death in West Africa. Prospect
Heights, IL: Waveland, $9.50 (paper);
with instructor’s manual.
Quiatt, D, and V Reynolds (1993) Primate
Behaviour: Information, Social Knowl-
help but appreciate the perspective of the
many philosophical quotes selected for inclusion and dispersed throughout the book,
a reflective appraisal of the data and studies
is too often missing at these points, and the
pensive writings of others become lip service
to a thoughtfulness I hoped to have from
Roche himself.
In spite of these criticisms, many researchers will welcome this volume. The
book is of intrinsic interest to research specialists in growth and development and
should be appreciated by serious students of
the subject.
Department of Anthropology
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
edge, and the Evolution of Culture. New
York: Cambridge University Press,
$74.95 (cloth).
Sing, CF, and CL Hanis (eds.) (1993) Genetics of Cellular, Individual, Family, and
Population Variability, New York: Oxford
University Press, $70 (cloth).
Smith, P, and E Chernov (eds.)(1992) Structure, Function, and Evolution of Teeth.
Tel Aviv: Freund, $100 (paper).
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xii, fels, growth, 1992, university, alex, 1929ц1991, 37449, isbn, longitudinal, 282, cambridge, 521, roche, stud, maturation, body, pres, composition
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