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Keywords:

  • Abuse;
  • bullying;
  • childhood;
  • obesity

Summary

We examined the associations between exposure to interpersonal violence in childhood and risk for obesity and central adiposity. Interpersonal violence is defined as behaviour that threatens, attempts or causes physical harm. In addition, we evaluated the evidence for three mechanisms that may connect interpersonal violence to obesity: negative affect, disordered eating and physical inactivity. Based on a literature search of Medline and PsycInfo databases, 36 separate studies were evaluated and ranked based on quality. Approximately 81% of the studies reported a significant positive association between some type of childhood interpersonal violence and obesity, although 83% of the studies were cross-sectional. Associations were consistent for caregiver physical and sexual abuse and peer bullying, and there was mixed evidence for community violence. Although few studies explored mechanisms, early evidence suggests that negative affect and disordered eating may be involved. More prospective studies are needed, as well as studies that examine the mechanisms connecting early childhood victimization to obesity and central adiposity.