An open question, however, is why there wasn't an association with obesity and troubled homes in boys. There are several possible explanations, Suglia said.
"It's possible that girls internalize things differently. Other studies have shown they do act differently in being exposed to stress. Girls tend to internalize more, and to have more depressive behaviors," Suglia said.
Boys are generally more physically active than girls even at a young age, so all of their running and jumping may help ward off obesity longer. Boys and girls also develop differently, so it's possible that girls are picking up more on maternal worries while boys are paying less attention, making them less vulnerable to it, Suglia said.
"In the domestic violence literature, we've found that girls identify more with the mom more than the boys," Suglia said.
But none of these are proven explanations. Indeed, researchers found that girls who grew up with these psychosocial risk factors were more likely to be obese than kids from more peaceful homes, but not that a difficult home life caused the obesity.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has more on kids and well-being.
SOURCES: Shakira Suglia, Sc.D., assistant professor, department of epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York City; Christina Bethell, Ph.D., MBA, MPH, professor, school of medicine, Oregon Health & Science University and director, Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative; May 2012 Pediatrics
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