International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 495–503 | Cite as

Longitudinal associations between family characteristics and measures of childhood obesity

  • Reetta Lehto
  • Carola Ray
  • Eva RoosEmail author
Original Article



The objective of this study was to investigate cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between different family characteristics and body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) in children.


This was a prospective follow-up study conducted in Helsinki region with data collected in 2006 and 2008. The sample consisted of 550 children aged 9–11 at baseline. Children were measured and weighed by research staff, and they completed a questionnaire about their family characteristics.


More meals together with the family, more parenting practices at meals, less time home without adult company after school, and child’s perception of receiving care from mother in 2006 predicted a lower BMI in 2008 and partly a smaller increase in BMI from 2006 to 2008. Fewer associations were found to WHtR. Physical activity with either parent was not associated with BMI or WHtR.


Several family characteristics predicted child BMI and WHtR 2 years later. These results contribute new knowledge about parental influence on child weight and weight gain and should be taken into account when planning interventions on the matter.


Family characteristics Body mass index Children Waist-to-height ratio 



We would like to thank all the schools, children, and parents for participating in the study. We would also like to thank our sources of funding: Juho Vainio foundation, Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg foundation, Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation, and Medicinska understödsföreningen Liv och Hälsa.


  1. Agras WS, Hammer LD, McNicholas F, Kraemer HC (2004) Risk factors for childhood overweight: a prospective study from birth to 9.5 years. J Pediatr 145:20–25. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2004.03.023 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berge JM (2009) A review of familial correlates of child and adolescent obesity: what has the 21st century taught us so far? Int J Adolesc Med Health 21:457–483PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berge JM, Wall M, Bauer KW, Neumark-Sztainer D (2010a) Parenting characteristics in the home environment and adolescent overweight: a latent class analysis. Obesity (Silver Spring) 18:818–825. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.324 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berge JM, Wall M, Loth K, Neumark-Sztainer D (2010b) Parenting style as a predictor of adolescent weight and weight-related behaviors. J Adolesc Health 46:331–338. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.08.004 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berge JM, Wall M, Neumark-Sztainer D, Larson N, Story M (2010c) Parenting style and family meals: cross-sectional and 5-year longitudinal associations. J Am Diet Assoc 110:1036–1042. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2010.04.011 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brann LS, Skinner JD (2005) More controlling child-feeding practices are found among parents of boys with an average body mass index compared with parents of boys with a high body mass index. J Am Diet Assoc 105:1411–1416. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2005.06.005 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burgess-Champoux TL, Larson N, Neumark-Sztainer D, Hannan PJ, Story M (2009) Are family meal patterns associated with overall diet quality during the transition from early to middle adolescence? J Nutr Educ Behav 41:79–86. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2008.03.113 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen JL, Kennedy C, Yeh CH, Kools S (2005) Risk factors for childhood obesity in elementary school-age Taiwanese children. Prog Cardiovasc Nurs 20:96–103PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cohen DA, Rice J (1997) Parenting styles, adolescent substance use, and academic achievement. J Drug Educ 27:199–211PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cole TJ, Bellizzi MC, Flegal KM, Dietz WH (2000) Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international survey. BMJ 320:1240–1243Google Scholar
  11. Cossio S, Messiah SE, Garibay-Nieto N, Lopez-Mitnik G, Flores P, Arheart KL, Carrillo-Iregui A (2009) How do different indices of obesity correlate with cardiometabolic disease risk factors in multiethnic youths? Endocr Pract 15:403–409. doi: 10.4158/EP08354.OR PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Currie C, Nic Gabhainn S, Godeau E, Roberts C, Smith R, Currie D et al (2008) Inequalities in young people’s health: health behaviors in school children international report from the 2005/2006 survey (Health policy for children and adolescents, No. 5). World Health Organization regional office for Europe, Copenhagen Google Scholar
  13. Darling N, Steingberg L (1993) Parenting style as context: an integrative model. Psychol Bull 113:487–496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Bourdeaudhuij I, Te Velde SJ, Maes L, Perez-Rodrigo C, de Almeida MD, Brug J (2009) General parenting styles are not strongly associated with fruit and vegetable intake and social-environmental correlates among 11-year-old children in four countries in Europe. Public Health Nutr 12:259–266. doi: 10.1017/S1368980008002930 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dollman J, Lewis NR (2009) Interactions of socioeconomic position with psychosocial and environmental correlates of children’s physical activity: an observational study of South Australian families. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 6:56. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-6-56 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fulkerson JA, Neumark-Sztainer D, Hannan PJ, Story M (2008) Family meal frequency and weight status among adolescents: cross-sectional and 5-year longitudinal associations. Obesity (Silver Spring) 16:2529–2534. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.388 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gibson LY, Byrne SM, Davis EA, Blair E, Jacoby P, Zubrick SR (2007) The role of family and maternal factors in childhood obesity. Med J Aust 186:591–595PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Gillman MW, Rifas-Shiman SL, Frazier AL, Rockett HR, Camargo CA Jr, Field AE, Berkey CS, Colditz GA (2000) Family dinner and diet quality among older children and adolescents. Arch Fam Med 9:235–240PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hakanen M, Lagstrom H, Kaitosaari T, Niinikoski H, Nanto-Salonen K, Jokinen E, Sillanmaki L, Viikari J, Ronnemaa T, Simell O (2006) Development of overweight in an atherosclerosis prevention trial starting in early childhood. The STRIP study. Int J Obes (Lond) 30:618–626. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803249 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hennessy E, Hughes SO, Goldberg JP, Hyatt RR, Economos CD (2010a) Parent-child interactions and objectively measured child physical activity: a cross-sectional study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 7:71. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-7-71 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hennessy E, Hughes SO, Goldberg JP, Hyatt RR, Economos CD (2010b) Parent behavior and child weight status among a diverse group of underserved rural families. Appetite 54:369–377. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2010.01.004 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kahn HS, Imperatore G, Cheng YJ (2005) A population-based comparison of BMI percentiles and waist-to-height ratio for identifying cardiovascular risk in youth. J Pediatr 146:482–488. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2004.12.028 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kim MJ, McIntosh WA, Anding J, Kubena KS, Reed DB, Moon GS (2008) Perceived parenting behaviours predict young adolescents’ nutritional intake and body fatness. Matern Child Nutr 4:287–303. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2008.00142.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kondaki K, Grammatikaki E, Pavon DJ, Manios Y, Gonzalez-Gross M, Sjostrom M, Gottrand F, Molnar D, Moreno LA, Kafatos A, Gilbert C, Kersting M, De Henauw S (2010) Comparison of several anthropometric indices with insulin resistance proxy measures among European adolescents: The Helena study. Eur J Pediatr. doi: 10.1007/s00431-010-1322-4
  25. Larson NI, Neumark-Sztainer D, Hannan PJ, Story M (2007) Family meals during adolescence are associated with higher diet quality and healthful meal patterns during young adulthood. J Am Diet Assoc 107:1502–1510. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2007.06.012 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lehto R, Ray C, Lahti-Koski M, Roos E (2010) Meal pattern and BMI in 9–11-year-old children in Finland. Public Health Nutr 1–6. doi: 10.1017/S1368980010003034
  27. Lobstein T, Baur L, Uauy R, IASO International Obesity TaskForce (2004) Obesity in children and young people: a crisis in public health. Obes Rev 5(Suppl 1):4–104. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2004.00133.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Loprinzi PD, Trost SG (2010) Parental influences on physical activity behavior in preschool children. Prev Med 50:129–133. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2009.11.010 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Maccoby E, Martin J (1983) Socialization in the context of the family: parent-child interaction. In: Mussen P, Hetherington E (eds) Handbook of child psychology: volume IV. Socialization, personality, and social development, 4th edn. Wiley, Canada, pp 1–103Google Scholar
  30. McCarthy HD, Ellis SM, Cole TJ (2003) Central overweight and obesity in British youth aged 11–16 years: cross sectional surveys of waist circumference. BMJ 326:624. doi: 10.1136/bmj.326.7390.624 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Moreno LA, Fleta J, Sarria A, Rodriguez G, Gil C, Bueno M (2001) Secular changes in body fat patterning in children and adolescents of Zaragoza (Spain), 1980–1995. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 25:1656–1660. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0801803 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Neumark-Sztainer D, Hannan PJ, Story M, Croll J, Perry C (2003) Family meal patterns: associations with sociodemographic characteristics and improved dietary intake among adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc 103:317–322. doi: 10.1053/jada.2003.50048 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Newman K, Harrison L, Dashiff C, Davies S (2008) Relationships between parenting styles and risk behaviors in adolescent health: an integrative literature review. Rev Lat Am Enfermagem 16:142–150PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rhee KE, Lumeng JC, Appugliese DP, Kaciroti N, Bradley RH (2006) Parenting styles and overweight status in first grade. Pediatrics 117:2047–2054. doi: 10.1542/peds.2005-2259 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sen B (2006) Frequency of family dinner and adolescent body weight status: evidence from the national longitudinal survey of youth, 1997. Obesity (Silver Spring) 14:2266–2276. doi: 10.1038/oby.2006.266 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Taveras EM, Rifas-Shiman SL, Berkey CS, Rockett HR, Field AE, Frazier AL, Colditz GA, Gillman MW (2005) Family dinner and adolescent overweight. Obes Res 13:900–906. doi: 10.1038/oby.2005.104 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Topham GL, Page MC, Hubbs-Tait L, Rutledge JM, Kennedy TS, Shriver L, Harrist AW (2010) Maternal depression and socio-economic status moderate the parenting style/child obesity association. Public Health Nutr 13:1237–1244. doi: 10.1017/S1368980009992163 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Trost SG, Sallis JF, Pate RR, Freedson PS, Taylor WC, Dowda M (2003) Evaluating a model of parental influence on youth physical activity. Am J Prev Med 25:277–282PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Utter J, Scragg R, Schaaf D, Mhurchu CN (2008) Relationships between frequency of family meals, BMI and nutritional aspects of the home food environment among New Zealand adolescents. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 5:50. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-5-50 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ventura AK, Birch LL (2008) Does parenting affect children’s eating and weight status? Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 5:15. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-5-15 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Verzeletti C, Maes L, Santinello M, Baldassari D, Vereecken CA (2010a) Food-related family lifestyle associated with fruit and vegetable consumption among young adolescents in Belgium Flanders and the Veneto Region of Italy. Appetite 54:394–397. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2009.12.010 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Verzeletti C, Maes L, Santinello M, Vereecken CA (2010b) Soft drink consumption in adolescence: associations with food-related lifestyles and family rules in Belgium Flanders and the Veneto Region of Italy. Eur J Public Health 20:312–317. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckp150 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Veugelers PJ, Fitzgerald AL (2005) Prevalence of and risk factors for childhood overweight and obesity. CMAJ 173:607–613. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.050445 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vuorela N, Saha MT, Salo M (2009) Prevalence of overweight and obesity in 5- and 12-year-old Finnish children in 1986 and 2006. Acta Paediatr 98:507–512. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2008.01110.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Young EM, Fors SW (2001) Factors related to the eating habits of students in grades 9–12. J Sch Health 71:483–488PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Folkhälsan Research CenterHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Department of Public HealthHjelt Institute, University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations