The direct and indirect effects of multiple family transitions on changes in children’s BMI percentile: examining the role of family processes

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Savannah A. Sommers (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Mark Fine

Abstract: The past century has seen increased attention towards the occurrence of union dissolution, cohabitation, and nonmarital childbearing. Families are becoming increasingly complex and contemporary cohorts of children in the United States are likely to experience one or more family transitions (Brown, Stykes, & Manning, 2016). Multiple family transitions are defined as repeated changes in a child’s family structure and are often measured as a count of the entrances and exits by a biological parent’s romantic partners or spouses into or out of a child’s household (Fomby & Osborne, 2015). This can include marriage, divorce, remarriage, cohabitation, dissolution of a cohabiting relationship, and death of a partner. The purpose of the current study is to examine the direct and indirect effects of multiple family transitions on changes in children’s BMI percentile. The data used are from the first five waves of the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study (FFCW). The FFCW is a longitudinal study of 4,898 children who were born between 1998 and 2000 from 20 cities in the United States. The results demonstrated that multiple family transitions were not directly associated with a change in children’s BMI percentile. The only indirect effect involved socioeconomic status, such that multiple family transitions from year 1 to year 5 were negatively associated with SES at age 5 and SES was negatively associated with change in children’s BMI percentile at age 9. The findings illustrate that SES has an important role on the relationship between multiple family transitions and change in children’s BMI percentile during a developmentally sensitive period and interventions focused on improving economic well-being have the potential to reduce child obesity rates and health disparities.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2020
BMI, Child health, Family instability, Family structure, Fragile Families, Obesity
Parent and child
Body mass index
Obesity in children

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