MONDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- Little girls from troubled homes are more likely to be obese at age 5 than girls from happier ones, new research shows.
However, researchers did not find that same association between boys' weight and difficult family situations.
In the study, researchers looked at data on more than 1,600 preschoolers from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which tracks the health and well-being of children born to mostly low-income, single-mother families. About half were black, 27 percent were Hispanic and 22 percent were white.
When their children were aged 1 and 3 years, mothers were asked about six stressors: domestic violence, depression, drug abuse, housing insecurity, food insecurity (meaning that their household didn't always have enough nutritious food to eat) and whether the child's father was in prison. Children's height and weight were measured at age 5.
At 5 years old, 17 percent of the children were obese, defined as having a body-mass index in the 95th percentile or above, or being heavier than 95 percent of their peers for their height.
Girls whose mothers reported experiencing two or more stressors when their daughter was age 1 were twice as likely to be obese at age 5. If the mother reported experiencing two or more stressors when the daughter was age 3, the girl was also about twice as likely to be obese.
Researchers found a trend toward a similarly high risk of obesity if the mothers reported experiencing stressors when their daughter was aged 1 and 3, however the results were not statistically significant. Researchers believe that doesn't mean there isn't a link, just that this sample wasn't big enough to show it.
The results suggest that pediatricians and others trying to stem the childhood obesity epidemic need to consider the family dynamics and home environment, rather than just the girl's we
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