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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 Jun 21. doi: 10.1002/oby.21902. [Epub ahead of print]

The longitudinal association between early childhood obesity and fathers' involvement in caregiving and decision-making.

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Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Department of Health Services and Nutrition, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.
Department of Biostatistics, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Department of Health and Human Behavior, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Fathers have increased their involvement in child caregiving; however, their changing role in childhood obesity is understudied. This study assessed the longitudinal association between changes in obesity among children aged 2 to 4 years and changes in fathers' involvement with raising children.


Longitudinal data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort were used to conduct child fixed-effects linear and logistic regression analyses to assess the association between changes in childhood obesity-related outcomes (sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, screen time, BMI z score, overweight/obesity, obesity) and fathers' involvement with raising children (caregiving and influencing child-related decisions). Fixed-effects models control for all time-invariant characteristics. Analyses were controlled for time-varying confounders, including child age, maternal and paternal employment, and family poverty status.


Children whose fathers increased their frequency of taking children outside and involvement with physical childcare experienced a decrease in their odds of obesity from age 2 to age 4. Obesity-related outcomes were not associated with fathers' decision-making influence.


Increases in fathers' involvement with some aspects of caregiving may be associated with lower odds of childhood obesity. Encouraging fathers to increase their involvement with raising children and including fathers in childhood obesity prevention efforts may help reduce obesity risk among young children.

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