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J Adolesc Health. 2009 Sep;45(3):230-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.01.003. Epub 2009 Apr 25.

Adolescent overweight and obesity: links to food insecurity and individual, maternal, and family stressors.

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Department of Human Development and Family Studies and the Institute for Social and Behavioral Research, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50010, USA.



A high proportion of adolescents living in low-income households in the United States are overweight or obese, food insecure, or exposed to high levels of individual, maternal, and family stressors. The aim of this paper was to identify the associations of food insecurity and the aforementioned stressors with an adolescent's propensity to be overweight or obese. We hypothesized that individual, maternal, and family stressors may exacerbate the relationship between food insecurity and adolescent overweight/obesity.


The sample included 1011 adolescents aged 10 to 15 years and their mothers in families with incomes below 200% of the poverty line from Wave 1 of the Welfare, Children, and Families: A Three-City Study (Three-City Study).


A series of logistic regressions predicted the probability of an adolescent being overweight or obese. Overall, higher levels of individual stressors increased the probability of being overweight or obese for adolescents, whereas there was no direct association between food insecurity, maternal, or family stressors and overweight or obesity. The interaction of food insecurity and maternal stressors was significantly linked to the probability of being overweight or obese; more specifically, an increase in maternal stressors amplified a food insecure adolescent's probability of being overweight or obese.


Policies addressing adolescent obesity should consider the benefits to reducing the individual stressors facing low-income adolescents and, for food insecure adolescents, the benefits to reducing their mothers' stressors.

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