In this paper we will review evidence on the early life and familial influences on childhood growth and development, with particular reference to the Lifeways cross-generation cohort study in the Republic of Ireland. The Lifeways cross-generation cohort study was established in 2001–2013 through two maternity hospitals in the Republic of Ireland and was one of many new cohort studies established worldwide in the millennium period. Mothers were recruited at first booking visit, completing a self-administered questionnaire, which included a 147 item semi-quantitative FFQ. Longitudinal follow-up is ongoing in 2013, with linkage data to hospital and general practice records and examination of children when aged 5 and 9 years. The study is one of very few containing data on grandparents of both lineages with at least one grandparent recruited at baseline. There have been consistent associations between parental and grandparental health status characteristics and children's outcomes, including infant birth-weight, BMI when child was aged 5 years and childhood wheeze or asthma when child was aged 3 and aged 5 years. In conclusion, empirical evidence to date shows consistent familial and cross-generational patterns, particularly in the maternal line.