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Temperament, parenting, and the development of childhood obesity Hejazi, Samar

Abstract

The purpose of this study was two-fold: (a) to identify, in a large representative sample of Canadian children, the age-related trajectories of overweight and obesity from toddlerhood into childhood and (b) to investigate the associations between these trajectories and children’s temperaments, their parents’ parenting practices and their interactions. Potentially important familial characteristics (i.e., the parents’ or surrogates’ age, income level, and educational attainment) were considered in the models. The sample for this study was drawn from the Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY). Group-based mixture modeling analyses were conducted to identify the number and types of distinct trajectories in the development of obesity (i.e., to explicate the developmental processes in the variability of childhood obesity) in a representative sample of children who were between 24 to 35 months of age, at baseline, and followed biennially over a 6-year span. Discriminant analysis was conducted to assess the theoretical notion of goodness-of-fit between parenting practices and children’s temperament, and their association with membership in the BMI trajectory groups. The results of the group-based modeling established three different BMI trajectories for the boys, namely: stable-normal BMI, transient-high BMI, and j-curve obesity. The analyses revealed four different trajectories of BMI change for the girls: stable-normal BMI, early-declining BMI, late-declining BMI, and accelerating rise to obesity. The multivariate analysis revealed that the combined predictors of the obesity trajectories of the girls (group membership) included having a fussy temperament, ineffective parenting, and parents’ educational attainment. Predictors of the boys’ obesity trajectory (group membership) included household income, parental education, and effective parenting practices. Understanding the different ways in which a child may develop obesity will allow nurses and other health professionals to take different approaches in the assessment, intervention and evaluation of obesity and obesity-related health problems. The results of this study further our understanding of factors associated with the development of obesity at a young age and hence may inform the development of early preventive programs.

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