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Kids can inherit stress from family leading to obesity by age 18

In a new study, scientists have found that adolescent obesity is linked to chronic family stress.

Washington: In a new study, scientists have found that adolescent obesity is linked to chronic family stress.

Findings from the University of Houston Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP) and Texas Obesity Research Center (TORC) suggests there is a relationship between long-term exposure to 3 specific types of family stressors and children becoming obese by the time they turn 18 years old.

Assistant Professor Daphne Hernandez examined these 3 family stress points - family disruption, financial stress and maternal poor health - and applied those to data of more than 4,700 adolescents born between 1975 and 1990.

Hernandez said that experiencing family stress - specifically family disruption and financial stress - repeatedly throughout childhood was associated with overweight or obesity by the time adolescent girls turned 18.

Interestingly, only one chronic family stress point -maternal poor health -was related to boys becoming overweight or obese by the time they turned 18.

The findings suggest that female and male adolescents respond differently to stress. By knowing the types of stressors that influence female and male adolescent weight gain, it was possible to tailor specific social services to be included in obesity prevention programs, she said.

Hernandez said that developing strategies to help with family stressors during childhood may help children maintain healthy weight into adulthood.

The findings are published in Preventive Medicine.