OBJECTIVE:

To assess associations of the number of parent stressors and parent-perceived stress with obesity and related behaviors in their children.

METHODS:

This cross-sectional analysis used data from the 2006 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey in which 2119 parents/caregivers answered questions about themselves and their children (ages 3–17 years). Survey data were used to assess the main exposure variables: the number of stressors (measured using a stressor index) and parent-perceived stress (the response to a general stress question); child covariates (age, race/ethnicity, health quality, and gender); adult covariates (education, BMI, gender, poor sleep quality) and study outcomes (child obesity, fast-food consumption, fruit and vegetable consumption, and physical activity). To account for developmental differences, analyses were also stratified by age group (3–5, 6–8, 9–12, and 13–17 years). Analyses used multiple logistic regression, with results expressed as odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals.

RESULTS:

The number of parent stressors was related to child obesity in unadjusted (1.12, 1.03–1.22, P = .007) and adjusted models (1.12, 1.03–1.23, P = .010). Parent-perceived stress was related to fast-food consumption in unadjusted (1.07, 1.03–1.10, P < .001) and adjusted (1.06, 1.02–1.10, P < .001) models.

CONCLUSIONS:

The number of parent stressors was directly related to child obesity. Parent-perceived stress was directly related to child fast-food consumption, an important behavioral indicator of obesity risk. Clinical care models and future research that address child obesity should explore the potential benefits of addressing parent stressors and parent-perceived stress.

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