Family stress and BMI in young children

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


Aim: 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.

Methods: 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.

Results: 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.

Conclusion: 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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Television / statistics & numerical data
  • Thinness / epidemiology