chapter  9
Family and education as determinants of health
ByMichael Wadsworth
Pages 19

There is increasing evidence for the proposition that in childhood the family and its social circumstances provide the basis for health in later life. It is proposed in this chapter that a fund of what will be referred to as physical health capital is developed in early life, with legacies from the mother in the form of prenatal development, from both parents in the form of genetic endowment and postnatal care, and from the social and physical environment in all its aspects in the early years of life. In this chapter it is suggested that the processes through which the biological endowment may have long-term effects are quite different from the ways in which the family and social influences have their impact. Comparison of the presumptive processes suggests that the determinism that may be inferred from the proposed term ‘health capital’, or from the processes of what Barker (1994) describes as biological programming, is unlikely to be absolute, and that there are likely to exist opportunities throughout life to augment, as well as to deplete, many aspects of health capital.