Cumulative Family-Level Stress and Adolescent Weight Status: Gender Disparities

Emily Pressler, Pennsylvania State University

Research focused on the family environment has suggested that cumulative family-level stress places adolescents at risk for obesity. Yet, it is unclear whether gender differences in adolescent weight status are dependent on childhood exposure to particular cumulative family-level stressors. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and the Young Adults files (n = 5,085), the proposed paper investigates how three cumulative family stress indices measured from birth to age 15 are related to adolescent weight status at age 18. The findings suggest that stress has different effects on female and male adolescent weight status. Greater childhood exposure to financial strain placed adolescent males at lower risk of being overweight/obese, while greater childhood exposure to financial strain and family disruption placed adolescent females at greater risk of being overweight/obese. Implications will be discussed in terms of improving adolescent health by reducing economic hardship and improving family relations during childhood.

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Presented in Session 48: Rethinking Gender and Family in the Transition to Adulthood