Dual Versus Single Parental Households and Differences in Maternal Mental Health and Child’s Overweight/Obesity

Britni R. Belcher, Jaclyn P. Maher, Nanette V. Lopez, Gayla Margolin, Adam M. Leventhal, Chaelin K. Ra, Sydney O’Connor, Tara L. Gruenewald, Jimi Huh, Genevieve F. Dunton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives Mothers report higher levels of psychological stress than fathers. s. Psychological stress is posited to influence parenting practices that could increase children’s obesity risk. However, previous studies have not investigated several aspects of maternal mental health and the moderating role of household structure on children’s obesity risk. The objective was to investigate associations of maternal mental health with child obesity risk, and whether these associations differed by household structure (single-parent vs. dual parent/multigenerational). Methods Mothers and their 8–12 year old children (N = 175 dyads) completed baseline questionnaires on mothers’ mental health and child anthropometrics. Separate logistic regressions assessed associations of standardized maternal mental health indicators with the odds of child overweight/obesity, controlling for child age, and women’s BMI, age, education, employment status, and annual income. Household structure was investigated as a moderator of these relationships.Results There were no statistically significant relationships between maternal mental health characteristics and odds of child overweight/obesity. Among single mothers only, greater anxiety was associated with higher risk of child overweight/obesity [OR (95% CI) = 3.67 (1.27–10.62); p = 0.0163]; and greater life satisfaction was marginally associated with lower risk of child overweight/obesity [OR (95% CI) = 0.44 (0.19–1.01); p = 0.0522]. Mothers’ life satisfaction may lower risk for their children’s overweight/obesity, whereas higher anxiety may increase this risk, particularly among children living in single-mother households. Conclusions for Practice Future interventions could increase resources for single mothers to buffer the effects of stress and lower pediatric obesity risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-556
Number of pages10
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 15 2019


  • Demography
  • Obesity
  • Parents
  • Pediatrics
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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