Behavioral, cognitive, and socioemotional pathways from early childhood adversity to BMI: Evidence from two prospective longitudinal cohorts.
Jenalee R. Doom, Ethan S. Young, Allison K. Farrell, Elizabeth A. Carlson, Michelle M. Englund, Glenn I. Roisman, & Jeffry A. Simpson
Childhood adversity is associated with being overweight in adulthood, but there are few investigations that prospectively test mechanisms behind this association across development. Using two socioeconomically high-risk prospective longitudinal birth cohorts, the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation (MLSRA) and the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), pathways between early childhood adversity and later body mass index (BMI) were tested using impulsivity, emotion dysregulation, and overeating as mediators. Early childhood adversity from 0-5 years included four separate types of adversity, including greater unpredictability, threat, neglect, and low socioeconomic status. Parents reported on their child’s impulsivity, emotion dysregulation, and overeating. Height and weight were self- reported and measured in adulthood in the MLSRA and in adolescence in the FFCWS. FFCWS results indicated that early threat, neglect, and low socioeconomic status predicted greater impulsivity and emotion dysregulation at 5 years, which in turn predicted greater overeating at 9 years and higher BMI z-score at 15 years. MLSRA results replicated the early threat→emotion dysregulation→overeating→higher BMI pathway found in FFCWS. These findings inform interventions designed to maintain or restore healthy weight for individuals who have experienced early childhood adversity.