Article Text

Parental marital status and childhood overweight and obesity in Norway: a nationally representative cross-sectional study
  1. Anna Biehl1,2,
  2. Ragnhild Hovengen1,
  3. Else-Karin Grøholt1,
  4. Jøran Hjelmesæth2,3,
  5. Bjørn Heine Strand1,
  6. Haakon E Meyer1,4
  1. 1Division of Epidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2The Morbid Obesity Centre, Vestfold Hospital Trust, Tønsberg, Norway
  3. 3Faculty of Medicine, Department of Endocrinology, Morbid Obesity and Preventive Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  4. 4Faculty of Medicine, Department of Community Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anna Biehl; anna.biehl{at}


Objective Sociodemographic changes in Norway and other western industrialised countries, including family structure and an increasing proportion of cohabiting and divorced parents, might affect the prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity issues. We aimed to examine whether parental marital status was associated with general and abdominal obesity among children. We also sought to explore whether the associations differed by gender.

Design Cross-sectional.

Setting 127 primary schools across Norway.

Participant 3166 third graders (mean age 8.3 years) participating in the nationally representative Norwegian Child Growth Study in 2010.

Measurements Height, weight and waist circumference were objectively measured. The main outcome measures were general overweight (including obesity; body mass index ≥25 kg/m2) using International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) cut-offs and abdominal obesity (waist-to-height ratio ≥0.5) by gender and parental marital status. Prevalence ratios, adjusted for possible confounders, were calculated by log-binomial regression.

Results General overweight (including obesity) was 1.54 (95% CI 1.21 to 1.95) times more prevalent among children of divorced parents compared with children of married parents, and the corresponding prevalence ratio for abdominal obesity was 1.89 (95% CI 1.35 to 2.65). Formal tests of the interaction term parental marital status by gender were not statistically significant. However, in gender-specific analyses the association between parental marital status and adiposity measures was only statistically significant in boys (p=0.04 for general overweight (including obesity) and p=0.01 for abdominal obesity). The estimates were robust against adjustment for maternal education, family country background and current area of residence.

Conclusions General and abdominal obesities were more prevalent among children of divorced parents. This study provides valuable information by focusing on societal changes in order to identify vulnerable groups.

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health

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