The role of family and maternal factors in the development and maintenance of childhood obesity (#232)
Background: Current treatment programs for childhood obesity have highlighted the importance of the role of the family in treatment. Considering this, it is surprising that few studies have examined the role of family or parental factors in development of childhood obesity.
Aim: To examine what family and maternal factors predict higher weight in boys and girls during middle to late childhood.
Methods: Longitudinal data from the Childhood Growth and Development Study were used for this research. The study involved 286 healthy weight, overweight and obese children, aged between 6 and 13 years at baseline, who completed baseline, 1-year follow-up and 2-year follow-up assessments. Overweight/obese children were recruited from clinical and community settings. The study assessed maternal BMI, maternal education, family structure, family income, maternal psychopathology, maternal self-esteem, parenting style, general family functioning, and negative life events. Linear mixed models were used to identify which of these maternal and family factors predicted child BMI z-score.
Results: For community-based children, maternal BMI was a significant multivariate predictor of child BMI z-scores, with increases in maternal BMI being associated with concurrent increases in child BMI z-score. Also for the community based sample, children from a single-parent family had higher BMI z-scores than children from two-parent families. For boys only, a significant interaction was found between maternal BMI and family structure. For girls only, maternal BMI, maternal education and family structure were significant predictors of child BMI z-scores. In addition, a significant interaction effect was identified between maternal education and family structure. For the clinical participants, low family income was the only significant multivariate predictor of child BMI z-scores.
Conclusion: The strong association between child BMI, maternal BMI and family structure confirms the need to find ways of targeting prevention and intervention efforts for childhood obesity at families with overweight parents, particularly single-parent families.