There have been a few studies suggesting an association between maternal obesity and a child’s neurodevelopment but none that have looked at both maternal and paternal obesity and whether their influence on childhood development is the same or different. At least until now—when Yeung et al. ( 10.1542/peds.2016-1459) studied mothers and paternal partners in a longitudinal cohort made up of upstate New York families enrolled at 4 months postpartum and then surveyed at four to six-month intervals until children were 3 years of age using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire to assess development in various areas (e.g. gross and fine motor, language, and social skills).
Similar to prior findings, if a mother was obese, the odds were increased of a child having fine motor difficulties, even after adjusting for confounders such as paternal BMI. New information included the finding of difficulties with personal and social skills, if the father were obese even after adjusting for maternal BMI. If both parents were obese, children were more apt to have difficulty with problem solving skills compared to neither or single parent obesity. The authors offer some thoughts about the distinct genetic and epigenetic effects of the findings—but even more importantly, this study weighs in with associations you may not have realized and will want to know about so you can more closely monitor developmental progress and/or need for earlier developmental intervention should you find one parent or both with elevated BMIs.
Have you found this developmental delay association to be true in your own patients with obese parents, or do you feel the study findings are hampered by unaccounted for confounders? Share your thoughts on this provocative study by responding to this blog, commenting on our website where the full article can be found, or via a posting on our Facebook or Twitter sites.