Child behaviour and subsequent changes in body weight, composition and shape

PLoS One. 2019 Dec 19;14(12):e0226003. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226003. eCollection 2019.


Objective: Studies have found an association between child behavioural problems and overweight, but the existing evidence for this relationship is inconsistent, and results from longitudinal studies are sparse. Thus, we examined the association between behavioural problems and subsequent changes in body mass index (BMI) and anthropometry over a follow-up period of 1.3 years among children aged 2-6 years.

Design: The study was based on a total of 345 children from The Healthy Start Study; all children were healthy weight but predisposed to develop overweight. The Danish version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), classified as SDQ Total Difficulties (SDQ-TD) and SDQ Prosocial Behaviour (SDQ-PSB), was used to assess child behaviour. Linear regression analyses were used to examine associations between SDQ scores and subsequent change in BMI z-score, body fat percentage, waist circumference and waist-hip ratio, while taking possible confounding factors into account.

Results: We found an association between SDQ-PSB and subsequent change in BMI z-score (β: 0.040 [95% CI: 0.010; 0.071, p = 0.009]). However, there was no evidence of an association between SDQ-PSB and measures of body composition or body shape.

Conclusions: Among 2 to 6 years old children predisposed to overweight, the association between SDQ-scores and weight gain is either absent or marginal. The SDQ-PSB score may be associated with subsequent increases in BMI z-score, but this association does not seem driven by an increased relative fat accumulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Size*
  • Body Weight*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Overweight / pathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Waist Circumference
  • Waist-Hip Ratio

Grant support

The Healthy Start study was funded by the Tryg Foundation (grant no.: 7984-07, 7106-09, and 7-10-0330) (BLH), the Danish Medical Research Council (grant no.: 271-07-0281) (BLH), and the Health Foundation (grant no.: 2008B101) (BLH). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. No funding was received for this specific study.