Current Obesity Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 350–362 | Cite as

A Review of the Relationship Between Socioeconomic Position and the Early-Life Predictors of Obesity

  • Adrian J CameronEmail author
  • Alison C. Spence
  • Rachel Laws
  • Kylie D. Hesketh
  • Sandrine Lioret
  • Karen J Campbell
The Obesity Epidemic: Causes and Consequences (A Peeters and S Tanamas, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on The Obesity Epidemic: Causes and Consequences


A range of important early-life predictors of later obesity have been identified. Children of lower socioeconomic position (SEP) have a steeper weight gain trajectory from birth with a strong socioeconomic gradient in child and adult obesity prevalence. An assessment of the association between SEP and the early-life predictors of obesity has been lacking. The review involved a two-stage process: Part 1, using previously published systematic reviews, we developed a list of the potentially modifiable determinants of obesity observable in the pre-natal, peri-natal or post-natal (pre-school) periods; and part 2, conducting a literature review of evidence for socioeconomic patterning in the determinants identified in part 1. Strong evidence was found for an inverse relationship between SEP and (1) pre-natal risk factors (pre-pregnancy maternal body mass index (BMI), diabetes and pre-pregnancy diet), (2) antenatal/peri natal risk factors (smoking during pregnancy and low birth weight) and (3) early-life nutrition (including breastfeeding initiation and duration, early introduction of solids, maternal and infant diet quality, and some aspects of the home food environment), and television viewing in young children. Less strong evidence (because of a lack of studies for some factors) was found for paternal BMI, maternal weight gain during pregnancy, child sleep duration, high birth weight and lack of physical activity in young children. A strong socioeconomic gradient exists for the majority of the early-life predictors of obesity suggesting that the die is cast very early in life (even pre-conception). Lifestyle interventions targeting disadvantaged women at or before child-bearing age may therefore be particularly important in reducing inequality. Given the likely challenges of reaching this target population, it may be that during pregnancy and their child’s early years are more feasible windows for engagement.


Infant Socioeconomic position Physical activity Nutrition 



This work was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) [training fellowship APP1013313 to AC who is also a researcher within a NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Obesity Policy and Food Systems (APP1041020)]. RL is postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Obesity Prevention and Management Research Excellence in Primary Health Care, funded by the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute. KDH is supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT130100637) and an Honorary Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship (100370).

Compliance with Ethics Guidelines

Conflict of Interest

Adrian Cameron, Alison C. Spence, Rachel Laws, Kylie D. Hesketh, Sandrine Lioret and Karen Campbell declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adrian J Cameron
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alison C. Spence
    • 2
  • Rachel Laws
    • 2
    • 5
  • Kylie D. Hesketh
    • 2
  • Sandrine Lioret
    • 3
    • 4
  • Karen J Campbell
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Obesity PreventionDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  2. 2.School of Exercise and Nutrition ScienceDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  3. 3.INSERM, UMR1153 Epidemiology and Statistics Sorbonne Paris Cité Research Center (CRESS), Early Origins of Child Health and Development Team (ORCHAD)VillejuifFrance
  4. 4.Paris-Descartes UniversityParisFrance
  5. 5.Centre for Obesity Prevention and Management Research Excellence in Primary Health CareSydneyAustralia

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