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Int J Public Health. 2012 Jun;57(3):495-503. doi: 10.1007/s00038-011-0281-5. Epub 2011 Aug 4.

Longitudinal associations between family characteristics and measures of childhood obesity.

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Folkhälsan Research Center, Paasikivenkatu 4, 00250, Helsinki, Finland.



The objective of this study was to investigate cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between different family characteristics and body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) in children.


This was a prospective follow-up study conducted in Helsinki region with data collected in 2006 and 2008. The sample consisted of 550 children aged 9-11 at baseline. Children were measured and weighed by research staff, and they completed a questionnaire about their family characteristics.


More meals together with the family, more parenting practices at meals, less time home without adult company after school, and child's perception of receiving care from mother in 2006 predicted a lower BMI in 2008 and partly a smaller increase in BMI from 2006 to 2008. Fewer associations were found to WHtR. Physical activity with either parent was not associated with BMI or WHtR.


Several family characteristics predicted child BMI and WHtR 2 years later. These results contribute new knowledge about parental influence on child weight and weight gain and should be taken into account when planning interventions on the matter.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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