How and For Whom Does Adversity Lead to Childhood Obesity: A Mediated Moderation Analysis
Lindsay Huffhines, PhD
BACKGROUND: Despite dedication of significant resources to prevention and intervention of childhood obesity, obesity rates remain historically high among children living in disadvantaged environments, which includes more than 15 million children in the U.S. One-third of children are overweight or obese in the U.S., and aside from being harmful in and of itself, obesity is also associated with chronic comorbidities, increased health care expenditures, and reduced quality of life.
GAP: To date, childhood obesity interventions have largely focused on promoting healthy eating, reducing screen time, and increasing exercise. Although this approach is effective for children without significant adversities, obesity will continue unabated in children living in disadvantaged environments unless underlying individual and family factors that are salient for this population and undermine healthy weight-related behaviors, such as emotion dysregulation, are addressed.
HYPOTHESIS: More work is needed to test the potential pathway of risk from adversity to obesity through emotion dysregulation (moderated by parent-child physiological synchrony), given the potential for physiological synchrony to serve as a modifiable intervention target, either through improvement of parent emotion dysregulation, or increasing the child’s ability to maintain their own regulation when faced with parent emotion dysregulation. Hypothesis 1a: High levels of physiological synchrony will amplify associations between adversity and emotion dysregulation; Hypothesis 1b: Emotion dysregulation, in turn, will be linked to higher levels of overweight/obesity over time.
METHODS: This is a longitudinal study including 100 children (46% Hispanic) with and without documented maltreatment that were followed from early (3-5 years) to middle childhood (9-11 years).
IMPACT: Knowledge gained will inform development of an innovative family-based treatment to tackle pediatric obesity among children exposed to adversity.