Childhood mental health problems and overweight: cause, consequence, and joint predictors
09 / 2011 - 02 / 2013
Mental health problems and overweight are highly common in childhood and may have long-lasting negative consequences. The current proposal aims to enhance understanding of the complex relationship between mental health problems and overweight in children, and to examine whether this association depends on child or family characteristics. Research in adults and adolescents suggests a reciprocal association: overweight increases the risk for future mental health problems, while mental health difficulties exacerbate weight problems. Attempts to further unravel cause and effect in the weight-mental health association are rare. This requires detailed and repeated measurements within one study population, and preferably data from early in life to understand the onset of the relation. Clearly, childhood studies provide a unique opportunity for improving comprehension of bi-directionality in the weight-mental health relationship. Understanding will also be enhanced by knowledge on whether the weight-mental health association depends on other characteristics. Children?s body image, family social disadvantage and parenting style are hypothesized to explain or moderate the association. This proposal takes advantage of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, a population-based sample of nearly 5000 children followed from kindergarten to age 10-11 years with biennial assessments of children?s mental health, weight status, body image, and family characteristics.