Psychosocial stress and obesity among children residing in Kaunas City

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Abstract

Introduction

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.

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