By Holly C. Gooding, Carly Milliren, S. Bryn Austin, Margaret A. Sheridan, and Katie A. McLaughlin | Child Abuse & Neglect | August 21, 2015
To determine whether different types of childhood adversity are associated with body mass index (BMI) in adolescence, we studied 147 adolescents aged 13–17 years, 41% of whom reported exposure to at least one adversity (maltreatment, abuse, peer victimization, or witness to community or domestic violence). We examined associations between adversity type and age- and sex-specific BMI z-scores using linear regression and overweight and obese status using logistic regression. We adjusted for potential socio-demographic, behavioral, and psychological confounders and tested for effect modification by gender. Adolescents with a history of sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or peer victimization did not have significantly different BMI z-scores than those without exposure (p > 0.05 for all comparisons). BMI z-scores were higher in adolescents who had experienced physical abuse (β = 0.50, 95% CI 0.12–0.91) or witnessed domestic violence (β = 0.85, 95% CI 0.30–1.40). Participants who witnessed domestic violence had almost 6 times the odds of being overweight or obese (95% CI: 1.09–30.7), even after adjustment for potential confounders. No gender-by-adversity interactions were found. Exposure to violence in childhood is associated with higher adolescent BMI. This finding highlights the importance of screening for violence in pediatric practice and providing obesity prevention counseling for youth.