Household Structure and Children’s Obesity Risks

Solveig Argeseanu Cunningham, Emory University

American children experience diverse family structures, and, given the importance of family for child wellbeing, these diverse and shifting circumstances may affect weight trajectories. This study examines the relationships between family structure and children’s obesity risks, one of the major health concerns in the U.S. today. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K), the largest nationally representative study with direct measures of child anthropometrics, we explore longitudinally the relationships between family structure and children’s weight. We find that children living in 2-parent families are at greater risk of being obese and have greater increases in weight between Kindergarten and fifth grade compared with children living in alternative arrangements. Being an only child, as well as living with additional adults, including grandmothers, is associated with greater obesity risks and weight gain. Our results point to the possible importance of rules and structure in ensuring healthy weight.

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Presented in Poster Session 6