Maternal education and household income at birth can increase a childs chances of overweight and obesity at age 10, according to new research: Researchers look at data from seven longitudinal studies to see why some children are more at risk than others

A mother’s level of education can be an important predictor of early childhood overweight and obesity, according to a new international study.

The paper, published in Nature’s International Journal of Obesity, looks at the relation between early childhood socioeconomic status (SES) — as measured by maternal education levels and household income — and later development of childhood overweight and obesity in seven cohorts of children from high-income countries.

Social inequalities were evident across all cohorts, with greater risk of overweight and obesity linked to lower levels of maternal education in early childhood. There was also a link to household income, but it was less robust.

The pre-existing data came from longitudinal, prospective cohort studies previously conducted in Quebec, across Canada, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden. These jurisdictions were intentionally selected because they fall along the gradient of socioeconomic inequality.

“We purposely wanted countries that had higher levels of inequality and some that had lower levels of inequality to see if the associations were evident across these different countries,” says Jennifer McGrath, professor[AF1] of psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Science and principal investigator of the EPOCH study. The EPOCH Collaborative Group is an international multidisciplinary research team that looks at how early poverty impacts later childhood health, from obesity to asthma, ADHD, chronic conditions and oral health.

The lead author of this study was Pär Andersson White at Linköping University in Sweden.

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