HealthDay News — Mothers with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 kg/m² and greater are more likely to see behavioral problems and psychiatric symptoms in their children, according to a study recently published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Sonia L. Robinson, Ph.D., from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues compared the BMI measurements of mothers of 7- and 8-year-old children (1,386 and 1,484 children, respectively) in the Upstate KIDS study to the rates of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and anxiety and severity of behavioral problems in their children. The authors evaluated behavioral problems using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (at age 7) and the Vanderbilt ADHD Diagnostic Parent Rating Scale (at age 8).

The researchers found that compared with mothers with a BMI of <25 kg/m², mothers with BMIs between ≥25 and <30, ≥30 and <35, and ≥35 kg/m² were all at higher risk for reporting ADHD in their children (adjusted risk ratios [95 percent confidence intervals], 1.14 [0.78 to 1.69], 1.96 [1.29 to 2.98], and 1.82 [1.21 to 2.74], respectively). Children of mothers with increasing maternal prepregnancy BMIs were also more likely to exhibit inattentive or hyperactivity/impulsive behavior. Paternal BMI did not appear to be a factor in these outcomes.

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“This familial information can assist in identifying high-risk populations to screen for behavioral problems in childhood and provide earlier intervention,” the authors write. “Given the consistent association of maternal obesity with child behavioral problems and psychiatric symptoms across studies in the United States and Europe, providers and public health practitioners should consider evidenced-based approaches for improving health literacy and lifestyle changes related to maternal prenatal weight for women considering pregnancy.”

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