International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 700–709 | Cite as

Family and Neighborhood Correlates of Overweight and Obesogenic Behaviors Among Chinese Children

  • Bai LiEmail author
  • Peymanè Adab
  • Kar Keung Cheng



The prevalence of childhood obesity is increasing rapidly in China. However, research on its modifiable environmental determinants to inform preventive interventions is limited.


This paper reports a cross-sectional study that aimed to identify family and neighborhood environmental correlates of overweight and related health behavior among Chinese primary school-aged children in urban areas.


Routinely collected height and weight data of third year students (8–10 years) from four primary schools in socioeconomically distinct districts of two southern cities of China was obtained. Using the WHO 2007 reference values, children were categorized into overweight/obese or non-overweight. Parents of the same children completed a questionnaire, comprising mainly validated questions, about family and perceived neighborhood environments, parental physical activity habits, and the child's dietary and physical activity patterns. Multiple logistic regression analysis was performed to examine the association between these environmental factors and childhood overweight or whether or not the child engages in at least 1 h daily moderate to vigorous physical activity. Multiple linear regression analysis was undertaken to examine the association between environmental factors and the frequency of consumption of unhealthy snacks, fruit, and vegetables in children.


Data on 497 children were available. Children who were mainly cared for by their grandparents were over twice as likely to be overweight/obese (adjusted OR 2.03; 95 % CI 1.19–3.47) and to have higher consumption of unhealthy snacks and sugar-added drinks (B = 2.13, 95 % CI 0.87–3.40), compared with children who were mainly cared for by their parents or other adult. Children who lived with at least two grandparents in the household were at higher risk for being overweight/obese than children who lived without any grandparent (adjusted OR 1.72; 95 % CI 1.00–2.94). No evidence was found for associations between perceived neighborhood environmental characteristics and child's weight status and obesogenic behaviors in this study.


Children's family environment, particularly the living-in grandparents, should be targeted in future preventive interventions among China's southern urban populations.


Childhood obesity China Diet Physical activity Environment Grandparents 



We would like to thank the staff at the Unit of School Health and Hygiene (Guangzhou Education Bureau) and Hechi City Government for their support in the study's data collection in China. Our sincere thanks also go to all the participants (e.g., children, family members, and school staff) in Guangzhou and Hechi cities, for their time and cooperation.


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© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Health and Population Sciences, College of Medical and Dental SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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