Family Lifestyle Dynamics and Childhood Obesity: Evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study

L A Gray, M Hernandez Alava, M P Kelly, M J Campbell


Using data from the Millennium Cohort Study, we investigate the dynamic relationship between underlying family lifestyle and childhood obesity during early childhood. We use a dynamic latent factor model, an approach that allows us to identify family lifestyle, its evolution over time and its influence on childhood obesity and other observable outcomes. We find that family lifestyle is persistent and has a significant influence on childhood weight status as well as other outcomes for all family members. Interventions should therefore be prolonged and persuasive and target the underlying lifestyle of a family as early as possible during childhood in order to have the greatest cumulative influence. Furthermore, the results indicate that to reduce inequalities in childhood obesity, policy makers should target disadvantaged families and design interventions specifically for these families.