Measured parental weight status and familial socio-economic status correlates with childhood overweight and obesity at age 9

PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e43503. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043503. Epub 2012 Aug 17.


Background: Parental obesity is a predominant risk factor for childhood obesity. Family factors including socio-economic status (SES) play a role in determining parent weight. It is essential to unpick how shared family factors impact on child weight. This study aims to investigate the association between measured parent weight status, familial socio-economic factors and the risk of childhood obesity at age 9.

Methodology/principal findings: Cross sectional analysis of the first wave (2008) of the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) study. GUI is a nationally representative study of 9-year-old children (N = 8,568). Schools were selected from the national total (response rate 82%) and age eligible children (response rate 57%) were invited to participate. Children and their parents had height and weight measurements taken using standard methods. Data were reweighted to account for the sampling design. Childhood overweight and obesity prevalence were calculated using International Obesity Taskforce definitions. Multinomial logistic regression examined the association between parent weight status, indicators of SES and child weight. Overall, 25% of children were either overweight (19.3%) or obese (6.6%). Parental obesity was a significant predictor of child obesity. Of children with normal weight parents, 14.4% were overweight or obese whereas 46.2% of children with obese parents were overweight or obese. Maternal education and household class were more consistently associated with a child being in a higher body mass index category than household income. Adjusted regression indicated that female gender, one parent family type, lower maternal education, lower household class and a heavier parent weight status significantly increased the odds of childhood obesity.

Conclusions/significance: Parental weight appears to be the most influential factor driving the childhood obesity epidemic in Ireland and is an independent predictor of child obesity across SES groups. Due to the high prevalence of obesity in parents and children, population based interventions are required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Overweight / physiopathology*
  • Parents
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Class*

Grant support

The Growing Up in Ireland study is funded by the Government of Ireland through the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in association with the Department of Social Protection and the Central Statistics Office. This present research is funded by the National Children’s Research Centre, Crumlin, Dublin ( The funders of this present research had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.