Parents' Impressions of Neighborhood Safety Linked To Children's Weight

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Overweight Children

Children who live in neighborhoods that their parents believe are unsafe are more likely to be overweight than those in neighborhoods perceived as safe, according to a study in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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Almost 16 percent of 6- to 11-year-old children in the United States are overweight, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of greater than or equal to the 95th percentile of national norms for age and sex, according to background information in the article. Children who are African-American or Hispanic, who watch large amounts of television or who have parents with high BMIs are more likely to be overweight, but little is known about how a child's neighborhood affects his or her risks. Few previous studies have looked specifically at the relationship between neighborhood safety and children's risk of being overweight.

Julie C. Lumeng, M.D., of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and colleagues collected data from 768 children and families participating in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, a study of families in 10 diverse regions of the United States. The parents completed questionnaires that assessed how safe they thought their neighborhoods were at the time their children were in first grade. The ratings were divided into quartiles, with the first quartile perceived as the least safe and the fourth as safest. Their children's height and weight were measured in the laboratory when they were 4

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