Psychosocial stress and obesity among children residing in Kaunas City
An unfavorable psychosocial environment has been associated with an increased prevalence of obesity among children. However, the available evidence on the association of low socioeconomic status and parent-child relationships with childhood obesity is scarce. The aim of our study was to conduct a simultaneous evaluation of the risks associated with pathological mother-child relationships, education level, and overweight/obesity among 4−6 year-old children.Methods
This cross-sectional study included 1489 mother-child pairs living in Kaunas city, Lithuania. The Parenting Stress Index was measured using the Parent-Child Dysfunctional Interaction subscale. Children's overweight/obesity was defined as the body mass index ≥18 kg/m2. Logistic regression models as well as crude and adjusted odds ratios (OR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) were used to indicate the strength of the associations between childhood overweight/obesity, maternal education level, and psychosocial stress.Results
The percentage of children with overweight/obesity rose with an increasing Parenting Stress Index score. The percentage of children with overweight/obesity in the group of parents with better education and normal mother-child relations was 6.0%, while in the group of less educated parents and pathological mother-child relations, this percentage reached 13.9%. The stratified multivariable model showed that, with reference to the group of better educated parents and normal mother-child relations, lower education level and pathological mother-child relations were statistically significant risk factors for overweight/obesity in 4–6 year-old children, increasing the OR of overweight/obesity (aOR: 2.43; 95% CI: 1.31–4.51). Pathological mother-child relations and maternal smoking mediated the effect of low maternal education level on children's BMI z-scores.Conclusion
Pathological mother-child relations, lower parental education levels, and smoking may be predictors of children's overweight/obesity. Measures oriented towards health behavior and psychosocial stress management should be encouraged among parents in order to decrease the risk of overweight/obesity in their children.