Parental overweight/obesity, social factors, and child overweight/obesity at 7 years of age


Lise Dubois, PhD, Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Institute of Population Health, 1 Stewart Street, Office 303, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada. Email:


Background:  This study used gender-based analyses to examine whether child overweight/obesity is related to parental overweight/obesity and sociodemographic factors, in a representative population-based cohort of 7-year-old children.

Methods:  Data from the Québec Longitudinal Study of Child Development 1998–2010 was used. Children (n= 1336) were randomly selected from each public health region of Québec. The study was based on face-to-face interviews and a set of questionnaires addressed to mothers and fathers.

Results:  Compared to children with no overweight/obese parent, the adjusted odds ratio (OR) of being overweight/obese with two overweight/obese parents was 5 for boys (95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.31–10.85) and 5.87 for girls (95%CI: 2.63–13.12). Gender differences appeared when one parent was overweight/obese. For girls, having either an overweight/obese mother (OR, 3.10; 95%CI: 1.14–8.38) or father (OR, 3.64; 95%CI: 1.68–7.91) significantly increased the odds of being overweight/obese at 7 years. For boys, however, having only an overweight/obese father (OR, 2.05; 95%CI: 1.01–4.16) was related to overweight/obesity, but having only an overweight/obese mother was not related to overweight/obesity at 7 years for boys. In girls, but not in boys, having an immigrant mother also significantly related to overweight/obesity (OR, 2.71; 95%CI: 1.28–5.75) at 7 years, after controlling for other social factors.

Conclusions:  Gender differences in socialization may explain why at 7 years of age, girls' bodyweight is influenced by having even one overweight/obese parent (mother or father), while boys' bodyweight appears to be influenced only by father's overweight/obesity when only one parent is overweight/obese.