• Childhood psychosocial factors;
  • adult obesity;
  • review


The prevalence of obesity is on a global-wide increase, but still the aetiology of adult obesity is poorly understood. It has been shown that overweight children suffer from adverse psychological events, but less is known about the potential effects of adverse psychological factors among normal weight children for later development of obesity. The purpose of this study was to systematically review current literature on associations between psychological factors in childhood and development of obesity in adulthood. A systematic search was conducted in three electronic databases MEDLINE (silverplatter 1977–2008), PsycINFO (1972–2008) and PsycINFO Weekly (week 1 January 2007–week 3 July 2008) to identify studies of interest. Six prospective and two retrospective studies were identified. Psychosocial factors related to adult obesity were lack of childhood care, abuse and childhood anxiety disorders. In addition, depression in adolescence tended to be related to adult obesity but among young girls only. Learning difficulties and scholastic proficiencies below average were also risk factors. The current literature suggests that specific psychosocial factors in childhood may act as determinants for developing obesity in adulthood.