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Social Stressors Increase Obesity Risk for Girls

4/16/2012 For Release: April 16, 2012

The study, “Cumulative Social Risk and Obesity in Early Childhood,” in the May 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published online April 16), found that gender seems to be a factor in how cumulative social stressors impact the likelihood of obesity in children at age 5. The study included 1,605 preschool children and identified social stressors as: maternal depressive symptoms, maternal substance use, intimate partner violence, housing insecurity, food insecurity and paternal incarceration. Researchers found that girls who experienced more than one social stressor were at increased risk of being obese by age 5. Girls with more than two stressors were at an even higher risk of becoming obese. No significant associations were noted among boys. According to the study authors, many of these social stressors are commonly faced by fragile families, and so obesity prevention efforts may be more effective if they address these issues. The authors conclude that awareness of the cumulative risk associated with social stressors should motivate providers to identify children who may benefit from early intervention programs that comprehensively address psychosocial risk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit

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