Associations between Obesity and Adverse Childhood Experiences in the United States.

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DOI: 10.1089/chi.2020.0261


Background: Obesity leads to serious health consequences in children and is potentially associated with increased adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Nationally representative studies examining associations between obesity and ACEs are lacking. Therefore, we aimed to determine the relationship between ACEs and childhood obesity.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cross-sectional study of children 10-17 years of age, who participated in the 2018 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH), a national population-based survey. Obesity was determined by CDC definitions using BMI calculated by the NSCH from self-reported height/weight. Logistic regression, adjusted for key sociodemographic factors, determined differences in rates of ACEs between children with obesity (BMI ≥95th percentile) and those without (BMI <95th >percentile).

Results: Weighted NSCH data included 29,696,808 children 10-17 years of age, 15% with obesity. Obesity was associated with having more ACEs compared to other children (p < 0.01). In adjusted analyses, children with obesity were more likely than other children to report most ACEs, including food/housing insecurity [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 1.64, confidence interval (95% CI) 1.26-2.13], parental divorce [1.67 (1.32-2.13)], witnessing physical violence [1.49 (1.03-2.16)], be a victim of violence [1.99, (1.27-3.12)], or live with a person with drug/alcohol abuse [1.65, (1.24-2.2)]. Children with obesity were also more likely to report ≥4 ACEs compared to other children (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: Children with obesity are more likely to report ACEs overall and have more ACEs compared to other children. Obesity negatively affects child health; in combination with ACEs, health outcomes of children may be disproportionately affected, highlighting the importance of preventive screening and social interventions in childhood.

Journal Title

Child Obes





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adolescent; adverse childhood experience; obesity; pediatric

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