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Pediatrics. 2012 Nov;130(5):e1096-104. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-0895. Epub 2012 Oct 22.

Influence of stress in parents on child obesity and related behaviors.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4399, USA.



To assess associations of the number of parent stressors and parent-perceived stress with obesity and related behaviors in their children.


This cross-sectional analysis used data from the 2006 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey in which 2119 parents/caregivers answered questions about themselves and their children (ages 3-17 years). Survey data were used to assess the main exposure variables: the number of stressors (measured using a stressor index) and parent-perceived stress (the response to a general stress question); child covariates (age, race/ethnicity, health quality, and gender); adult covariates (education, BMI, gender, poor sleep quality) and study outcomes (child obesity, fast-food consumption, fruit and vegetable consumption, and physical activity). To account for developmental differences, analyses were also stratified by age group (3-5, 6-8, 9-12, and 13-17 years). Analyses used multiple logistic regression, with results expressed as odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals.


The number of parent stressors was related to child obesity in unadjusted (1.12, 1.03-1.22, P = .007) and adjusted models (1.12, 1.03-1.23, P = .010). Parent-perceived stress was related to fast-food consumption in unadjusted (1.07, 1.03-1.10, P < .001) and adjusted (1.06, 1.02-1.10, P < .001) models.


The number of parent stressors was directly related to child obesity. Parent-perceived stress was directly related to child fast-food consumption, an important behavioral indicator of obesity risk. Clinical care models and future research that address child obesity should explore the potential benefits of addressing parent stressors and parent-perceived stress.

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