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The family environment and American adolescents' risk of obesity as young adults


  • Crossman, Ashley
  • Anne Sullivan, Deborah
  • Benin, Mary


In this article, the effects of the family environment and adolescents' behaviors while in school grades 7 through 12 on their weight status 6 years later are examined using data from the United States National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Ordinal regression models of 6378 adolescents reveal that their family environments exert an influence on their weight that lasts into young adulthood. Parental obesity puts both males and females at greater risk for being overweight or obese as young adults, as does already having excessive weight in adolescence. The findings also reveal significant gender differences in the intergenerational transmission of body weight within families. Higher parental educational attainment, a stronger perception that parents care about them, and a higher self-esteem reduce female adolescents' risk for excessive weight as young adults, while being African American or Native American increases it. In contrast, only a perception that their parents are trying to control their diets and a higher degree of closeness with a parent put male adolescents at greater risk for excessive weight as young adults. Adolescents' participation in physical activities does not predict subsequent weight for either males or females, although the amount of time spent in sedentary activities does for females, but not males. The only adolescent behavior examined that influenced male weight in young adulthood was eating breakfast.

Suggested Citation

  • Crossman, Ashley & Anne Sullivan, Deborah & Benin, Mary, 2006. "The family environment and American adolescents' risk of obesity as young adults," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(9), pages 2255-2267, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:63:y:2006:i:9:p:2255-2267

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Variyam, Jayachandran N., 2001. "Overweight Children: Is Parental Nutrition Knowledge a Factor?," Food Review/ National Food Review, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, vol. 24(2), pages 1-5.
    2. Singh-Manoux, Archana & Marmot, Michael, 2005. "Role of socialization in explaining social inequalities in health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(9), pages 2129-2133, May.
    3. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1994:84:5:807-813_3 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Kendall, Garth E. & Li, Jianghong, 2005. "Early childhood socialization and social gradients in adult health: A commentary on Singh-Manoux and Marmot's "Role of socialization in explaining social inequalities in health" (60: 9, 2005," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(11), pages 2272-2276, December.
    5. Schneider, Dona, 2000. "International trends in adolescent nutrition," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(6), pages 955-967, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Price, Joseph & Swigert, Jeffrey, 2012. "Within-family variation in obesity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 333-339.
    2. Sun, Yu & You, Wen, 2016. "Relative-deprivation effects on child health in China," 2016 Annual Meeting, July 31-August 2, Boston, Massachusetts 235926, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    3. Lee, Chioun & Ryff, Carol D., 2016. "Early parenthood as a link between childhood disadvantage and adult heart problems: A gender-based approach," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 171(C), pages 58-66.
    4. Bodea, Tudor D. & Garrow, Laurie A. & Meyer, Michael D. & Ross, Catherine L., 2009. "Socio-demographic and built environment influences on the odds of being overweight or obese: The Atlanta experience," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 430-444, May.
    5. Tudor Bodea & Laurie Garrow & Michael Meyer & Catherine Ross, 2008. "Explaining obesity with urban form: a cautionary tale," Transportation, Springer, vol. 35(2), pages 179-199, March.
    6. Kolodinsky, Jane M. & Castle, Jeffrey, 2014. "Mother/Child Eating and Drinking Patterns by Weight and Ethnicity," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 169803, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.


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