Childhood Obesity Chapter 6

Endangering Your Child's Health


Risk Factors for Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a complex problem that involves diet, individual behavior, family behavior, heredity, cultural patterns, environmental conditions, and many other factors. For this reason there are a multitude of risk factors for child obesity, many of them interrelated.

One very important risk factor is the weight of the parents:

  • Obesity in mother or both parents

Poor dietary habits are major risk factors:

  • Overconsumption of high-calorie fast food

  • Overconsumption of high-sugar foods and sweetened drinks (like sodas)

  • Missing breakfast

Factors relating to activity:

  • Low level of physical activity

  • High level of television watching, computer use, or video gaming

  • Television in child’s room

Socioeconomic factors may increase risk:

  • Children in rural areas are more at risk for obesity

  • Minority (African-American and Hispanic) children are more likely to be obese

  • Children from families with low income and low educational attainment have increased risk

It may surprise you to learn that rural kids are more likely to be obese than inner city kids, but it’s true. LESS


Early Risk Factors

Most childhood obesity prevention programs, including that of First Lady Michelle Obama, target kids who are age 8 and older. But the risk factors for child obesity are present early on, even before the baby is born! So it’s vital to start young—very young—to help your child stay at a healthy weight. READ MORE

Some of the earliest risk factors include:

  • Weight gain of more than 53 lbs (24 kg) by mother during pregnancy

  • Mother developing diabetes while pregnant

  • High birth weight of baby

  • Rapid weight gain in the first year of life

  • Rapid catch-up growth between birth and age 2

  • Developing body fat in preschool years

  • Watching more than 8 hours of TV a week at age 3

  • Sleeping fewer than 10-1/2 hours a night at age 3


Photo credit: Two adults with two children
Copyright 2006 malias

The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.