Objective: To examine the impact of chronicity of maternal intimate partner violence (IPV) on obesity risk among preschool-aged children.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Several large US cities.
Participants: A subsample of the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study participants (n = 1595), who were children born between 1998 and 2000 and their parents interviewed at baseline and at 12, 36, and 60 months.
Main exposure: Maternal report of restrictive, sexual, and physical abuse from an intimate partner. Chronic IPV was defined as any maternal IPV exposure during both pregnancy or infancy (0-12 months) and early childhood (36-60 months).
Main outcome measure: Repeated measures of child body mass index.
Results: Among the 1595 children, 16.5% were obese at age 5 years and 49.4% of the mothers reported some form of IPV. Compared with those who had no IPV exposure, children whose mothers reported chronic IPV had an elevated risk for obesity at age 5 years (adjusted odds ratio = 1.80; 95% confidence interval, 1.24-2.61). Stratified analyses indicated increased risk for obesity among girls with a maternal history of chronic IPV (adjusted odds ratio = 2.21; 95% confidence interval, 1.30-3.75) compared with boys (adjusted odds ratio = 1.66; 95% confidence interval, 0.94-2.93) and a larger effect of any maternal IPV on obesity among children living in less safe neighborhoods (adjusted odds ratio = 1.56; 95% confidence interval, 1.03-2.36).
Conclusions: Chronic maternal IPV is associated with increased risk of obesity among preschool-aged children. Preventing family violence and improving community safety may help reduce childhood obesity.