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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Apr;17(4):761-6. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.594. Epub 2009 Jan 15.

Childhood behavioral problems predict young adults' BMI and obesity: evidence from a birth cohort study.

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Longitudinal Studies Unit, School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia.


We examined whether behavioral problems in childhood and adolescence are associated with young adults' BMI and obesity, and tested whether childhood behavioral problems have a greater impact on young adults' obesity than adolescent behavioral problems. The data were from the Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy (MUSP) and Its Outcomes, a population-based birth cohort study commenced in Brisbane, Australia, in 1981. A subsample of 2,278 children for whom we had prospective information on their behavioral problems at ages 5 and 14 and measured BMI, and its categories (normal, overweight, and obese) at age 21 was chosen. Young adults who experienced behavioral problems at ages 5 or 14 had a greater average BMI and were more likely to be obese compared to young adults without behavioral problems at both ages. The childhood onset group was at greater risk of becoming obese by age 21 compared to the adolescent onset group (P = 0.04). These associations remained consistent after adjusting for a variety of potential covariates including maternal characteristics (i.e., demographics and life style), child dietary patterns, family meals, television (TV) watching, and participation in sports and exercise at 14 years. Childhood as well as persistent behavioral problems during childhood and adolescence predicts young adults' BMI and obesity. Although further studies are needed to confirm this association, there is a need for close monitoring of children presenting with behavioral problems.

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