Children of Battered Moms More Often Obese

Women who are victims of domestic violence are more likely to have obese preschoolers, a new study shows, indicating an unexpected cause of childhood obesity.

A new study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that children of battered mothers were more likely to be obese when compared to children whose mothers come from violence-free families.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine studied 1,595 children born to unmarried parents between 1998 and 2000. The mothers of the children in the study were interviewed numerous times from the time the children were born up until they reached five years old.

According to the study, 788 (nearly half) of the children had been exposed to family violence by the age of five, and 263 children (16.5 percent) were considered obese, according to their body mass index (BMI). After ruling out several factors, like depression and maternal obesity, children whose mothers reported chronic violence had a 1.8 times greater chance of becoming obese, according to lead researcher Dr. Renee Boynton-Jarrett.

The link between obesity and family violence appeared to be more prominent in girls and families who live in an unsafe neighborhood. This is the first study that has suggested a connection between violence against mothers and obesity risk among children. However, Dr. Boynton-Jarrett told Reuters Health that “these findings are absolutely applicable across socioeconomic populations,” and pointed out that the children’s education and socioeconomic factors were controlled in the study.

Nearly five million women are victims of domestic violence every year, and between 3 million and 10 million children witness these attacks annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers hope that the study will bring the issue of domestic violence into the equation when creating obesity prevention programs for children.

“If we can marry the two efforts in some respects, we might be doing a better job of preventing early onset of childhood obesity,” Dr. Boynton-Jarrett said.


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One Response

  1. Henrike Bergmann

    Just read a report about this study in Medscape, and tried to google the author – found this website instead. I think the study was not properly designed because the authors did not correct for family income. Low income is very frequently associated with obesity in children and intimate partner violence occurs more frequently in low-income families as well. A clear indication of the relationship between childhood obesity and low income was also indirectly stated in the results of this study, as an unsafe neighborhood also contributed to obesity in children. Living in an unsafe neighborhood is also an indicator for low income. I suppose that educating mothers and helping them to achieve higher social status will help them to develop healthier lifestyles, move to better neighborhoods, get rid of their abusive partners and feed their children healthier foods (and keep them away from the TV screen).