Quality of Early Maternal-Child Relationship and Risk of Adolescent Obesity

Division of Epidemiology, The Ohio State University College of Public Health, Columbus, Ohio, USA.
PEDIATRICS (Impact Factor: 5.47). 12/2011; 129(1):132-40. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-0972
Source: PubMed


The goal of this study was to determine whether obesity in adolescence is related to the quality of the early maternal-child relationship.
We analyzed data from 977 of 1364 participants in the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Child attachment security and maternal sensitivity were assessed by observing mother-child interaction at 15, 24, and 36 months of age. A maternal-child relationship quality score was constructed as the number of times across the 3 ages that the child was either insecurely attached or experienced low maternal sensitivity. Adolescent obesity was defined as a measured BMI ≥95th percentile at age 15 years.
Poor-quality maternal-child relationships (score: ≥3) were experienced by 24.7% of children compared with 22.0% who, at all 3 ages, were neither insecurely attached nor exposed to low maternal sensitivity (score: 0). The prevalence of adolescent obesity was 26.1%, 15.5%, 12.1%, and 13.0% for those with risk scores of ≥3, 2, 1, and 0, respectively. After adjustment for gender and birth weight, the odds (95% confidence interval) of adolescent obesity was 2.45 (1.49-4.04) times higher in those with the poorest quality early maternal-child relationships (score: ≥3) compared with those with the highest quality (score: 0). Low maternal sensitivity was more strongly associated with obesity than insecure attachment.
Poor quality of the early maternal-child relationship was associated with a higher prevalence of adolescent obesity. Interventions aimed at improving the quality of maternal-child interactions should consider assessing effects on children's weight and examining potential mechanisms involving stress response and emotion regulation.

Full-text preview

Available from:
    • "Along the same lines, caregivers who are controlling toward their children's food intake, lead them to a marked increase of attention toward external rather than internal cues in order to regulate their food intake. This, in turn, results in lack of self-regulation and greater eating in the absence of hunger signals (Anderson et al., 2012; Hughes et al., 2011). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Some recent findings indicate that maternal sensitivity and emotional regulation may play a key role in predicting the risk for overweight and obesity of the child in early ages. The current article describes a longitudinal study encompassing more than 50 women, across a time-span that currently goes from pregnancy (n = 65) to three years of age of the baby (n = 53). In a previous report on our ongoing research project, we showed that maternal BMI and emotional regulation during pregnancy significantly predicted the quality of the early, dyadic feeding interactions, at 7 months of age of the baby. The current study confirmed and extended those findings, by showing that maternal emotional dysregulation (r = .355, p = .009) and pre-pregnancy BMI (r = .389, p = .004) predicted the BMI of the child at three years of age too, with a medium to large effect size.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2015 · Appetite
  • Source
    • "ilar trends have been corroborated by Anderson and Whitaker ( 2011 ) , who found that the probability of a 4½ year old child becoming obese is 1 . 3 times higher within an insecure mother – child attachment than within a secure attach - ment ( measured when the child was 24 months old ) . This tendency remains until the child reaches adolescence ( Anderson et al . , 2012 ) . Thus , the significance of the mother as a secure base for the long - term weight development of the child should be emphasized . Our results also revealed that the attachment effect shows incremental validity beyond biological / genetic and environmental factors such as the child ' s birth BMI percentile , parental BMI , and mother"
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Childhood obesity has become a rising health problem, and because parental obesity is a basic risk factor for childhood obesity, biological factors have been especially considered in the complex etiology. Aspects of the family interaction, e.g., mother–child attachment, have not been the main focus. Our study tried to fill this gap by investigating whether there is a difference between children of obese and normal weight mothers in terms of mother–child attachment, and whether mother–child attachment predicts child’s weight, in a sample of 31 obese and 31 normal weight mothers with children aged 19 to 58 months. Mother–child attachment was measured with the Attachment Q-Set. We found that (1) children of obese mothers showed a lower quality of mother–child attachment than children of normal weight mothers, which indicates that they are less likely to use their mothers as a secure base; (2) the attachment quality predicted child`s BMI percentile; and (3) the mother–child attachment adds incremental validity to the prediction of child’s BMI beyond biological parameters (child’s BMI birth percentile, BMI of the parents) and mother’s relationship status. Implications of our findings are discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Attachment & Human Development
  • Source
    • "Similar findings emerged when insecure and disorganized attachment styles were combined and compared with the secure attachment style. In a later study, the observed poor quality of the early mother–child attachment relationship was also associated with a higher prevalence of obesity in adolescence (Anderson et al., 2012). Only two studies have focused on the quality of parental attachment and the risk of childhood obesity. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Within the research area on the determinants of childhood obesity, a relatively new approach is the use of attachment theory to explore the mechanisms underlying children's obesity risk, especially considered as emotion regulation strategies in parent-child relationship. Few are the empirical researches that have addressed this issue. The empirical investigations have used self-report measures to assess adult attachment. In attachment studies, the use of interview methods and/or performance-based instruments is advised to evaluate the entire range of possible adult attachment patterns and comprehensively explain the emotional strategies, correlates, and consequences of individual differences in attachment system functioning. The aim of this study was to explore the extent to which both parents' attachment patterns serve as self-regulative mechanisms related to childhood overweight/obesity by the Adult Attachment Projective Picture System (AAP) in a sample of 44 mothers and fathers of children referred for obesity. Insecure attachment was found as a risk factor both for mothers and fathers. Also unresolved/disorganization was found to play a significant role in childhood obesity. The role of father's attachment was explored and findings suggested considering it in etiology and treatment of childhood obesity.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · Frontiers in Psychology
Show more