An exploratory study examining obesity risk in non-obese mothers of young children using a socioecological approach

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This cross-sectional, exploratory study aimed to (1) develop an obesity risk score using a comprehensive set of variables assessing mothers’ intrapersonal weight-related characteristics and those of their homes’ interpersonal and physical environments, and (2) determine how weight-related characteristics differ by obesity risk level. U.S. mothers (N = 550) of preschool-aged children completed an online survey that assessed maternal self-report weight status, sociodemographics, health-related characteristics, and maternal intrapersonal and their homes’ interpersonal and physical environment weight-related characteristics. Binomial logistic regression analysis identified variables significantly associated with obesity. Scores for all obesity risk variables were summed to create a weighted obesity risk score for non-obese participants (n = 386). Analysis of variance and Tukey post-hoc tests determined how non-obese mothers’ sociodemographic, health-related, and intrapersonal and their homes’ interpersonal and physical environment characteristics differed among obesity risk score tertiles. Results revealed that eight variables explained 53 percent of maternal obesity risk, including African American race, lower education level, more children in household, poorer maternal health, higher weight teasing history, higher body dissatisfaction, primary relative with obesity, and greater concern about children’s overweight risk. Non-obese mothers in the highest obesity risk tertile had greater food insecurity risk, lower family affluence, worse sleep quality, less fruit/vegetable availability, and reported less frequent modeling of healthy behaviors and more family conflict. In conclusion, eight characteristics that explained more than half of the risk for obesity in non-obese mothers of young children, may help healthcare professionals identify mothers at increased risk of obesity and offer preventive care early.

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