Obese students' childbearing risk varies with high school obesity rates

May 9, 2013

For young women in high school, the risk of childbearing may depend on the prevalence of obesity in their schools, according to sociologists, who found that as the prevalence of obesity rises in a school, so do the odds of obese high school students bearing children.

"We did find that obese females are at lower risk of having a child while in high school," said Jennifer Buher Kane, recent Penn State Ph. D. recipient and current postdoctoral fellow at Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina. "But that relative risk depends a lot on the type of school they attend."

Health officials tend to focus on the biological link between obesity and childbearing, but also recognize the stigma of obesity limits obese females choices in finding and establishing relationships and sexual partnerships, Frisco said. However, the researchers said that the stigma may be reduced in high schools with higher levels of obesity and the risk of childbearing increases for obese females in those schools because young women have more partnership opportunities.

"In general, we tend to partner with people who look like us," said Michelle Frisco, associate professor of sociology and , Penn State.

When the researchers examined the risk of childbearing for obese and non-obese young women, the obesity prevalence of schools did not change non-obese young women's risk of childbearing, but it did change the risk for obese young women having children. For these young women, the odds of childbearing consistently increased as the obesity prevalence in schools increased and eventually surpassed non-obese young women's risk of childbearing when roughly 17 percent of students in a high school were obese.

The researchers used information from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine the behaviors of 4,242 female students attending 102 high schools in the U.S.

The researchers, who report their findings in the current issue of Social Science and Medicine, determined whether young women and students in their schools were obese by using the height and weight data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on determining obesity.

Kane said that one theory suggests that obese females may have limited opportunities to establish sexual relationships. However, when they do have opportunities, they may also feel less empowered in a relationship and research shows they are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, including unprotected sex. She added that they are also more likely to use drugs and alcohol before sex, which also increases the likelihood of unprotected sex.

, who may ignore intervention strategies for obese students because they believe the risk of pregnancy is minimal, should consider how rates may affect the pregnancy risks in their schools, according to the researchers.

"We need to teach all to make better and smarter decisions," Frisco said. "A one-size-fits-all approach to understanding adolescent pregnancy and childbirth doesn't work."

Explore further: Timing, duration of obesity impact adult diabetes risk

Related Stories

Timing, duration of obesity impact adult diabetes risk

April 5, 2013
(HealthDay)—The likelihood of diabetes in young adulthood is increased for those who are obese as adolescents and those with persistent obesity, compared to those with adult-onset obesity, according to a study published ...

Teen moms at greater risk for later obesity, study finds

April 19, 2013
A new study debunks the myth that younger moms are more likely to "bounce back" after having a baby – teenage pregnancy actually makes women more likely to become obese.

Overweight and obese women at higher risk of adverse neonatal and maternal outcomes

March 26, 2013
Overweight and obese women are more likely to require specialist medical care during their pregnancy due to the increased risk of adverse neonatal and maternal outcomes, finds a new study published today (27 March) in BJOG: ...

Fitness, obesity independently affect cardiometabolic risk

April 3, 2013
(HealthDay)—Fitness and obesity are independently associated with cardiometabolic (CM) risk, according to a study published in the April 1 issue of The American Journal of Cardiology.

Morbid obesity in women on the rise, study finds

April 4, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A Deakin University study has found that the rate of morbid obesity in women increased by almost 70 per cent over a 10 year period.

Recommended for you

Are sugary drink interventions changing people's behaviour?

July 19, 2017
An evaluation of efforts designed to reduce how many sugary drinks we consume shows some success in changing younger people's habits but warns they cannot be the only way to cut consumption.

Young adult obesity: A neglected, yet essential focus to reverse the obesity epidemic

July 18, 2017
The overall burden of the U.S. obesity epidemic continues to require new thinking. Prevention of obesity in young adults, while largely ignored as a target for prevention and study, will be critical to reversing the epidemic, ...

Weight gain from early to middle adulthood may increase risk of major chronic diseases

July 18, 2017
Cumulative weight gain over the course of early and middle adulthood may increase health risks later in life, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They found that, compared ...

Study finds children carry implicit bias towards peers who are overweight

June 23, 2017
Even children as young as 9 years old can carry a prejudice against their peers who are overweight, according to a new study led by Duke Health researchers. They might not even realize they feel this way.

Mother's obesity boosts risk for major birth defects: study

June 15, 2017
Children of obese women are more likely to be afflicted by major birth defects, including malformations of the heart and genitals, according to a study published on Thursday.

New study finds more than 2 billion people overweight or obese

June 12, 2017
Globally, more than 2 billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, and an increasing percentage of people die from these health conditions, according to a new study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.