Family Stress and Childhood Obesity

Steven Garasky, Iowa State University
Susan D. Stewart, Iowa State University
Craig G. Gundersen, Iowa State University
Brenda J. Lohman, Iowa State University
Joey C. Eisenmann, Michigan State University

One in every six children in the United States is obese, making it one of the most prevalent medical issues among youth today. Contemporary children and their families face numerous stressors that have the potential to negatively affect their health and well-being. In limited small-scale studies, stress has been associated with childhood obesity. Few studies, however, have specifically examined relationships between family stress and child obesity. We investigate whether and how family stress influences childhood obesity through examinations of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and its Child Development Supplement. We estimate two multiple regression models: a probit using traditional categorizations of the child’s weight class and an approach whereby much less structure is imposed. Preliminary results show a positive relationship between family stress and childhood overweight: compared to normal weight children, a greater percentage of children who are overweight and at risk of overweight have been exposed to family stressors.

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Presented in Session 8: Child Health and Wellbeing in Developed Countries