The Association of Parental/Caregiver Chronic Stress with Youth Obesity: Findings from the Study of Latino Youth and the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos Sociocultural Ancillary Study

Child Obes. 2017 Aug;13(4):251-258. doi: 10.1089/chi.2016.0205. Epub 2017 Mar 1.


Background: Prior studies indicate that chronic stress is associated with obesity in adults. However, whether parental/caregiver stress is associated with obesity in their offspring has not been widely examined in Hispanic/Latino populations. In this study, we evaluated the role of caregiver chronic stress on child obesity and whether home food environment or child lifestyle behaviors explained the association.

Methods: The study included a sample of Hispanic/Latino youth and their caregivers (n = 473) from the Study of Latinos (SOL) Youth study and the Hispanic Community Health Study/SOL Sociocultural Study, which enrolled children aged 8-16 years from four cities (Bronx, Chicago, Miami, and San Diego), and provided assessments of adult chronic stress. Poisson regression models were used to assess the association between parental/caregiver stress and child obesity, adjusting for potential confounders.

Results: Twenty-two percent of caregivers did not report any chronic stressors, 48% reported 1-2, and 29% reported ≥3 stressors. The prevalence of obesity in youth increased with number of caregiver stressors from 23% among those without caregiver stressors to 35% among those with ≥3 stressors (p for trend 0.03). After model adjustment, youths whose caregivers reported ≥3 stressors were more likely to be obese than youths whose caregivers reported no stressors (prevalence ratio = 1.53; 95% confidence interval 1.01-2.32). This association was independent of food home environment, child diet quality, and child physical activity, but it was not independent of caregiver obesity.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that parental/caregiver chronic stress is related to obesity in their children. Future research is needed to confirm this association in longitudinal studies and in other population groups.

Keywords: caregiver stress; home environment; obesity; youth.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity / psychology*
  • Poverty
  • Public Health
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult