Objective: To evaluate the association of parental history of atopic disease with childhood atopic dermatitis, and to examine the relative strength of associations with maternal and paternal disease.
Design: Mothers were recruited to the Avon longitudinal study of parents and children (ALSPAC) from the eighth week of pregnancy. Before parturition, both parents were asked, separately, to report their lifetime history of eczema, asthma, and hayfever. Parents reported symptoms of atopic dermatitis in their children at ages 6, 18, 30, and 42 months.
Results: Of 8530 children with complete information on rash at ages 6, 18, 30, and 42 months, 7969 had complete information on maternal atopic disease and 5658 on maternal and paternal atopic disease. There was a strong association between parental eczema and childhood atopic dermatitis: odds ratio 1.69 (95% confidence interval, 1.47 to 1.95) for maternal eczema only, 1.74 (1.44 to 2.09) for paternal eczema only, and 2.72 (2.09 to 3.53) for eczema in both parents. Associations with parental asthma or hayfever were attenuated after controlling for parental eczema. There was no evidence that associations with maternal atopy were stronger than with paternal.
Conclusions: Associations between parents' atopic disease and the risk of atopic dermatitis in offspring vary according to the type of atopic disease in the parents, but not according to parental sex. These results are at variance with previous studies reporting stronger associations with maternal than paternal atopy, and suggest that there is no "parent-of-origin" effect in atopic dermatitis. Parental eczema may be a better marker than parental asthma/hayfever in predisposing to childhood eczema.