Household Structure and Children's Risks of Obesity

Solveig Argeseanu Cunningham, Emory University
Kate Cartwright, Emory University

Studies from both the social and the health sciences have emphasized the household as the main locus of access to and distribution of care, resources, monitoring and modeling for children’s wellbeing. However, obesity may present a curious case for the study of investments in children, being a health indicator for which more investments may not necessarily lead to better outcomes. We examine the role of household structure in children’s weight gain and obesity during elementary and middle school using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K). We find that children living with two biological parents may not have lower obesity risks and in fact may be at greater risk of obesity than children living with a step-parent. Also, children living with other adults, including grandmothers, may experience greater obesity risks and weight gain, whereas children sharing the home with other children tend to have lower obesity risks.

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Presented in Session 150: Family Structure, Father Involvement and Childhood Obesity