Critical periods for the development of adolescent obesity


Numerous individual, behavioural, and environmental factors contribute to the development of obesity in adolescence. It is likely that some factors may be more influential during specific developmental phases in childhood. In this paper, we use data from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study to identify these critical periods and their respective contributing factors.

A sample of 1403 participants (674 females and 729 males) was available for analysis over eight time points (birth, ages 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, and 14 years). Cross sectional (ANOVA, Chi square) and longitudinal (linear mixed model) analysis was used to identify key factors related to BMI weight status at 14 years, along with the period of importance. Over 100 factors were assessed.

We identified three critical developmental periods between birth and age 8 years; perinatal, between ages 1 to 3 years and 6 and 8 years. During the perinatal period, a key factor was maternal smoking (χ2 = 12.6, p = .002). Between ages 1 to 3 years, some indicators included early feeding behaviours (exclusive breast feeding for longer than 4 months χ2 = 15.2, p < .001); abnormal motor development, and early physical activity behaviours (e.g. visits to park age 1 year χ2 = 17.0, p = .030). Between ages 6 and 8 years physical activity, socioeconomic status, and sedentary behaviours were most influential (e.g. television watching age 6 years χ2 = 42.3, p < .001).

Early childhood contains several critical developmental periods in which individual, behavioural and environmental factors may increase the likelihood of adolescent obesity. Further research is needed to identify effective age-specific interventions, particularly in the preschool years.

Paola Chivers, Beth Hands, Helen Parker and Max Bulsara, 'Critical periods for the development of adolescent obesity', Obesity Research and Clinical Practice, Vol. 4 (S1), 2010, S50.

ISSN: 1871-403X

doi: 10.1016/j.orcp.2010.09.100


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