BACKGROUND AND METHOD: Small-for-gestational-age (SGA) infants represent a heterogeneous group of normal and growth-retarded children. To assess the familial aggregation of reduced fetal growth, birth weights in both maternal and paternal relatives of 1246 index children in the Scandinavian SGA Study were compared across groups defined by the SGA outcome of the index child as well as that of earlier siblings. RESULTS: Mean maternal birth weight +/- SEM was 3127 +/- 54 g for mothers who had experienced two SGA births as opposed to 3424 +/- 22 for mothers with no SGA births. Mean paternal birth weight was 3497 +/- 88 g and 3665 +/- 24 in the same two groups. The odds ratio (with 95% confidence interval) for having a mother with birth weight below the 10th percentile was 1.74 (0.85-3.58) for the group where two SGA births had occurred compared to no SGA births and it was 2.49 (1.22-5.07) for having a father with birth weight below the 10th percentile. There was no correlation between maternal and paternal birth weights. CONCLUSIONS: The association also to paternal birth weight suggests the presence of genetic or common environmental factors in explaining the tendency to have SGA children. Although taking parental birth weights into consideration will aid in diagnosing growth-retardation in a SGA child, SGA remains a heterogeneous group where familial and non-familial cases will be difficult to separate.