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Acta Paediatr. 2010 Aug;99(8):1205-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2010.01776.x. Epub 2010 Feb 22.

Family stress and BMI in young children.

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Department of Women's and Children's Health, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.



The aim of this study was to investigate if family stress and parental attachment style are associated with body mass index (BMI) in young children, and identify possible explanations.


A cross-sectional survey with a two-stage design was used. Parents of 873 children participated. They completed a demographic questionnaire, the Swedish Parenthood Stress Questionnaire (SPSQ), the Relationship Questionnaire (RQ) and reported their children's television-viewing habits (as a marker of physical activity). Children's height, weight and BMI were obtained from a general population-based register, BASTA. Associations with over- and underweight in children were assessed using multiple logistic regression analysis.


Family stress indicated by SPSQ-score was associated with suboptimal BMI. Maternal, but not paternal, SPSQ-stress score was statistically significantly associated with overweight and underweight, with adjusted odds ratios (and 95% confidence interval) of 4.61 (3.11-6.84; p < 0.001) and 3.08 (1.64-5.81; p < 0.001) respectively. Associations between childhood BMI and parental attachment style were identified, but were not independent of maternal SPSQ-score.


Our findings support a role for family stress in development of both overweight and underweight among young children. This is likely to be attributed to behavioural mechanisms but a more direct metabolic influence of stress could also be involved.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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