Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and colleagues reviewed data from the Upstate KIDS Study, which recruited 5,034 women in New York State outside New York City about four months after giving birth.
Parents completed the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) when their children were four, eight, 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months. (The ASQ screens for delays in five developmental domains: fine motor, gross motor, communication, personal-social functioning, and problem-solving ability). Mothers also completed a questionnaire about health status and lifestyle, which included questions regarding both parents’ height and weight, maternal weight prior to pregnancy, and gestational weight gain.
Compared with normal/underweight mothers (BMI <25), children of obese mothers (BMI ≥30) were 67% more likely to fail the test’s fine motor domain. Children of obese fathers were 75% more likely to fail the test’s personal-social domain—an indicator of how well they were able to relate to and interact with others by age 3. Children of two parents with class II/III obesity (BMI ≥35) had higher odds of failing multiple domains (fine motor, personal-social, and problem solving) compared with children of normal/underweight parents.
“[The] findings suggest that maternal and paternal obesity are each associated with specific delays in early childhood development, emphasizing the importance of family information when screening child development,” Yeung and colleagues wrote.
While more research is needed to understand the relationship between parental obesity and children’s development, the authors noted that some studies suggest obesity-induced maternal inflammation or epigenetic alterations to sperm may alter offspring development.
“Approximately 1 in 5 pregnant women in the United States enter into pregnancy with a BMI ≥30,” the authors wrote. “Given that the prevalence of obesity is approximately double in the United States as in Europe, and that class II/III obesity (BMI ≥35) in both parents may be most concerning, the relevance of findings to a U.S. population is important.”
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Meta-Analysis Finds Association Between Obesity and ADHD in Adults, Children.”