• obesity;
  • prediction

Objective: To examine determinants of moderate and severe obesity in children at 5 years of age.

Methodology: A prospective cohort of mothers were enrolled at first antenatal visit, and interviewed shortly after delivery, at 6 months and 5 years. Detailed health, psychological and social questionnaires were completed at each phase by mothers, and child health questionnaires at 6 months and 5 years. At 5 years 4062 children were assessed physically, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test administered and mothers completed a modified Child Behaviour Checklist. Moderate obesity was defined as BMI between 85th and 94th percentiles inclusively, and severe obesity as a BMI greater than the 94th percentile.

Results: Independent predictors of severe obesity at 5 years were birthweight, female gender, maternal BMI and paternal BMI. Moderate obesity at 5 years was predicted by birthweight, paternal BMI and sleeplessness at 6 months, while small for gestational age (SGA) status and feeding problems at 6 months were protective factors for moderate obesity. Obesity was not associated with problems of language comprehension or behaviour.

Conclusions: Findings of this study suggest that biological rather than psychosocial factors are the major determinants of obesity at 5 years.