Study links obesity risks to family structure

OKLAHOMA CITY – The family structure in which a child is raised could put him or her at greater risk for obesity, according to a study by researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in teens in the past 30 years.

“Before the study, we did not know if one size fit all, but we now know some kids are at a higher risk for obesity-promoting behaviors because the risk is not equally distributed among all the family structures,” said Susan Sisson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of behavioral nutrition in the OU College of Allied Health.

In the study, the presence of a sibling was generally associated with lower obesity-promoting behaviors and more physical activity.

However, the presence of a sibling did not completely eliminate the risk of engaging in obesity-promoting behaviors for a child in a single-mother or blended household.

“This is one of the first studies of its kind in the United States. Previous studies show children of divorced parents are more likely to be overweight, but we wanted to see if children living with single mothers and in two-parent, blended families were more at risk for engaging in obesity-promoting behaviors,” Sisson said.

The study also found that a blended family increases the risk for obesity substantially.

Dr. Sisson stopped by our studios to talk about the fascinating and puzzling results.