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Int J Obes (Lond). 2017 Jan;41(1):54-60. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2016.137. Epub 2016 Aug 16.

The impact of familial, behavioural and psychosocial factors on the SES gradient for childhood overweight in Europe. A longitudinal study.

Author information

Faculty of Human and Health Sciences, Institute for Public Health and Nursing Research (ipp), University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany.
Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology-BIPS, Bremen, Germany.
Department of Intercultural Communication and Management, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark.
Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Department of Physical Medicine and Nursing, Growth, Exercise, Nutrition and Development (GENUD) Research Group, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain.
Department of Public Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
Centre for Sport and Exercise Science and Medicine (SESAME), University of Brighton, Eastbourne, UK.
Department of Chronic Diseases, National Institute for Health Development, Tallinn, Estonia.
Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, Institute of Statistics, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany.



In highly developed countries, childhood overweight and many overweight-related risk factors are negatively associated with socioeconomic status (SES).


The objective of this study is to investigate the longitudinal association between parental SES and childhood overweight, and to clarify whether familial, psychosocial or behavioural factors can explain any SES gradient.


The baseline and follow-up surveys of the identification and prevention of dietary and lifestyle induced health effects in children and infants (IDEFICS) study are used to investigate the longitudinal association between SES, familial, psychosocial and behavioural factors, and the prevalence of childhood overweight. A total of 5819 children (50.5% boys and 49.5% girls) were included.


The risk for being overweight after 2 years at follow-up in children who were non-overweight at baseline increases with a lower SES. For children who were initially overweight, a lower parental SES carries a lower probability for a non-overweight weight status at follow-up. The effect of parental SES is only moderately attenuated by single familial, psychosocial or behavioural factors; however, it can be fully explained by their combined effect. Most influential of the investigated risk factors were feeding/eating practices, parental body mass index, physical activity behaviour and proportion of sedentary activity.


Prevention strategies for childhood overweight should focus on actual behaviours, whereas acknowledging that these behaviours are more prevalent in lower SES families.

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