Adverse family experiences and obesity in children and adolescents in the United States

Brian A. Lynch, Amenah Agunwamba, Patrick M. Wilson, Seema Kumar, Robert M. Jacobson, Sean Phelan, Valeria Cristiani, Chun Fan, Lila J. Finney Rutten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


While exposure to adverse family experiences (AFEs), subset of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), has been associated with childhood obesity, less is known about the impact of exposures to each type of AFE. Using 2011–2012 National Survey of Children's Health data, we evaluated associations between exposure to individual AFEs and overweight/obesity status in children 10 years or older, adjusting for socio-demographic factors. Caregivers reported their child's height, weight, and exposure to nine AFEs; body mass index (BMI) was classified by Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidelines. At Mayo Clinic, we calculated frequencies and weighted estimates of socio-demographic factors and AFEs. Unadjusted and adjusted weighted multinomial logistic regression models were employed to assess the independent associations of each AFE and the different AFE composite scores with BMI category. Exposure to two or more AFEs was independently associated with increased odds of overweight (odds ratio [OR], 1.33; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.13, 1.56) and obese (OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.21, 1.73) status after adjustment for age, household income, parents' education-level, race and sex. Death of parent (OR, 1.59; 95% CI, 1.18, 2.15) and hardship due to family income (OR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.06, 1.50) were independently associated with obesity status with adjustment for other AFEs and socio-demographic factors. Our results suggest that, in addition to cumulative exposure to AFEs, exposure to certain childhood experiences are more strongly associated with childhood obesity than others. Death of parent and hardship due to family income are individual AFEs, which are strongly predictive of obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-154
Number of pages7
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child abuse
  • Child maltreatment
  • Child neglect
  • Obesity
  • Pediatric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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