Girls from troubled homes are more likely to be obese at age 5 than girls from happier ones, new research shows. However, researchers did not find that same association between boys' weight and difficult family situations.

In the study, researchers looked at data on more than 1,600 preschoolers from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which tracks the health and well-being of children born to mostly low-income, single-mother families. About half were black, 27 percent were Hispanic and 22 percent were white.

When their children were aged 1 and 3 years, mothers were asked about six stressors: domestic violence, depression, drug abuse, housing insecurity, food insecurity (meaning that their household didn't always have enough nutritious food to eat) and whether the child's father was in prison. Children's height and weight were measured at age 5.

At 5 years old, 17 percent of the children were obese, defined as having a body-mass index in the 95th percentile or above, or being heavier than 95 percent of their peers for their height.

Girls whose mothers reported experiencing two or more stressors when their daughter was age 1 were twice as likely to be obese at age 5. If the mother reported experiencing two or more stressors when the daughter was age 3, the girl was also about twice as likely to be obese.

The study is published in the May issue of Pediatrics.

Source: U.S. News & World Report
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/04/16/troubled-homes-may-fuel-obesity-in-girls