Household Instability, Area Poverty, and Obesity in Urban Mothers and Their Children

Data from a survey of new mothers, living in urban areas, ties household instability to increased risk for obesity. There are differing patterns of association between obesity risk and household instability for mothers and their children.

This article investigates how household instability and neighborhood poverty levels work together to influence obesity risk. The authors use a cross-sectional approach to analyze data from the Fragile Families and Well Being Study (FFS; 1998–2000). FFS researchers combined items on parental stress, financial stability, and food insecurity to create a scale for measuring levels of household instability. This article shows changes in BMI that occur as household instability worsens. The "discussion" section considers the relative importance of household instability in areas with more and less poverty.

Key Findings:

  • The percentage of mothers classified as obese was significantly greater in unstable households (47%) than in households with less instability (38%).
  • High levels of household instability were not associated with increased risk for obesity or overweight in children.

This article argues that obesity-reducing strategies should not look only at the home environment. Understanding the interaction between home environments and surrounding neighborhoods may be crucial for the implementation of successful obesity-control interventions.