Violence from parents in childhood and obesity in adulthood: Using food in response to stress as a mediator of risk

Emily A. Greenfield, Nadine F. Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Guided by a life course perspective and concepts from models of stress and coping, this study tested the extent to which self-reported profiles of physical and psychological violence in childhood from parents were associated with greater odds of obesity in adulthood. This study also examined the extent to which adults' greater use of food in response to stress served as a mediator of potential associations of risk. Multivariate regression models were estimated using data from 1650 respondents in the 1995-2005 National Survey of Midlife in the U.S. (MIDUS). Results indicated that respondents who reported having experienced both psychological and physical violence from parents-with at least one type of violence having reportedly occurred frequently-were more likely to be classified as obese in contrast to respondents who reported never having experienced either type of violence from parents. Evidence from a sequence of models that tested mediation effects indicated that greater use of food in response to stress among respondents with problematic histories of violence explained, in part, their higher risk of adult obesity. Findings contribute to the growing body of evidence regarding psychosocial predictors of obesity, as well as the physical health consequences of childhood family violence. Results further suggest the importance of addressing particular aspects of life course social relationships-such as violence in childhood from parents-and their implications for psycho-behavioral uses of food within efforts to reduce rates of adult obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-798
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • Eating behaviors
  • Family violence
  • Life course perspective
  • Obesity
  • Parent-child relationships
  • Physical health
  • Stress and coping
  • USA


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