Obesity Among Individuals in the United States

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 5
Words: 1429
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: PhD


The article Approaches to measuring the extent and impact of environmental change in three California community-level obesity prevention initiatives by Cheadle et al. (2010) highlights the various health concerns due to the problem of obesity among individuals in the United States. The authors describe this distressing public health concern as a problem whose root cause among individuals can be traced to their childhood experiences. His view concurs with another study by Johnson, Cohen, Kasen, and Brook (2014) that cites childhood experiences as a major issue that triggers obesity. It is imperative to highlight from the two articles that there is a relationship between childhood trauma and adulthood obesity.

Main body

Moreover, a research by Karr-Morse and Wiley (2012) explores the causes of obesity and points out that stressful event which most children are subjected to or find themselves may cause physiological and emotional imbalance. It is on that basis that various studies have sought to link adulthood obesity and childhood trauma by trying to answer the question “can childhood trauma be a cause of adulthood obesity?”

Childhood trauma, which exposes a child to traumatic experiences, is a problem that has been cited as a factor that heightens the risk of obesity in adulthood (Juonala et al., 2011). When a child is subjected to toxic childhood experiences, the chances of developing a habit that leads to obesity begin to develop. Borrowing from scientific inferences, Juonala et al. (2011) indicate that adulthood obesity is a problem that can be traced to childhood trauma and stress. Children under stress develop medical conditions and they also engage themselves in behavioral patterns that tend to drive them towards gaining weight. While obesity is a health problem that has been considered to develop from unhealthy behavioral patterns, other authors acknowledge that the issues of diet, body activities and other several risk factors are important causes of obesity and crucial in determining BMI. In particular, Juonala et al. (2011) conclude that increased inflammation, dropped immune metabolism and function, negative thought patterns, poor mental health, stress and distressful emotional experiences are the core mechanisms associated poor childhood life with adulthood experiences.

Recent studies by Grimaldi and Van Etten (2010) in their article Psychosocial adjustments following weight loss surgery offers alarming statistics of how early childhood abuse and eventual adulthood obesity. The article is a reflection of some of the psychosocial dimensions of obesity. The authors bring out the connection between early childhood traumas and adulthood health conditions. The article links obesity in later stages of an individual’s life to other factors which also include depression and emotional traumas. These as it confirms strongly contribute to the problem of adult obesity. It further explores in depth each psychosocial dimension and concludes by providing critical recommendations for controlling psychosocial issues among children.

Most importantly, while indicating that there are many other factors that contribute towards obesity, they specifically call to attention the fact that 34% of children exposed to toxic experiences grow to become obese (Grimaldi & Van Etten, 2010). Other factors causing obesity as the authors put in their statistics are traumatic experiences caused by physical abuse which accounts for 28% and sexual abuse which accounts for about 31% (Grimaldi & Van Etten, 2010).

Additionally, comparative studies conducted among children exposed to early childhood trauma and those who are not exposed show a huge difference in their behavior patterns and adult health. Emotional abuse of children as the study highlights plays a critical role in augmenting chances of obesity for exposed children by up to 36% (Sorensen, 2009). This figure is lower compared to a staggering 45% risk of adulthood obesity for children exposed to general abuse. Grimaldi and Van Etten (2010) conclude by indicating that children can also be exposed to extreme trauma and this might heighten their chances of developing serious health conditions. Of particular interest is the 50% cause of obesity that this can cause when compared to 13% chances for moderate child abuse (Sorensen, 2009).

Evidence from a study conducted by Lytle (2009) points towards early traumatic experiences in a child’s life as a causative factor to adult obesity. Dysfunctional family patterns and relationships, alcoholism among parents, abuse and neglect among other causes of childhood stress pose critical health challenges in the future lives of children. These painful experiences do not only affect them in their adulthood stage but are seen to have negative implications in their occupational and educational environments (Lytle, 2009). Health-related problems, physical and psychological, among individuals with obese conditions are dire. Some of the problems due to obesity include fertility problems, stroke, high blood pressure, type II diabetes and coronary heart diseases, these require timely interventions.


The research will adopt a quantitative methodology to determine the link between childhood traumatic experiences and adulthood obesity. The researcher will use chi-square test to compare the different perceptions on the effects of childhood abuse, relate them to the prevailing problem of adulthood abuse, and test the hypothesis. This will be particularly effective because it will provide the necessary interlink between the different variables used in the study like childhood, adulthood, obesity and behavior patterns.

Purpose of the research

The research provides an examination of the association between childhood toxic experiences and adulthood health-related problems like obesity.

The study will seek to answer the research questions by determining how physical or psychological problems in a child’s life may instigate obesity and provide ways of addressing the problem of child abuse.

Research questions

According to Sorensen (2009), a research methodology forms a major step towards developing the necessary recommendations based on key objectives. In this case therefore, the study will seek to answer the following quantitative research questions; which will also be a major guiding platform to maintain objectivity and purpose in the study.

  1. Can childhood toxic or abusive experiences cause adulthood obesity?
  2. Is it possible to determine and establish the extent to which childhood trauma can instigate adulthood obesity?
  3. What are some of the intervention methods to reduce or mitigate the growing numbers of adulthood obesity?

State a hypothesis

The following hypothesis has been developed to aid in addressing a research question:

  • H1: Childhood trauma is the major cause of obesity among adults

Sample and population

The study will use a population of children and adults. The range will be about 30 children and 30 adults of ages 5-14 years and 25-40 years respectively. The chosen groups will indeed be ideal in that the outcome will bring out the different views on the problem of adult obesity. This will be a major factor of balancing the results to infer greater acceptability.

The researchers in this study will employ random sampling methods to determine those to be part of the sample to test the hypothesis. To add to that, data review will be used holistically from the previous researches related to the study. This will strongly increase validity of the results and further acceptability.

Type I and Type II errors

As one of the final stages before the results can be discussed, data analysis for this study will be very critical as it will be used to answer the research questions, test the research hypothesis, and generate the necessary recommendations for the study. As indicates earlier, the analysis of data for this study will assimilate a strong quantitative approach. This will also include incorporating inferential and descriptive systems. Initially, the data will be summarized according to the different variables under survey in the study.

The various observations that will be made from the data that will be recorded. These will be significant as they will represent the view of the whole sample. In addition, graphs, and tables will be used and these will be significant for summarizing the findings from collected data. A simple Chi-square test will be conducted to determine the deviations.


Notably, key issues have been raised on the accuracy of data on the relationship between childhood trauma and adulthood obesity. These are based on type I and type II errors (Chambers & Swanson, 2010). An assessment of the study might indicate that adulthood obesity is not caused by childhood trauma. The latter might have little or effect at all. This point towards type II error which nullifies the true hypothesis of the correlation. Under this consideration, false-positive results to an individual may be a major source of obesity. False-negative results on the other hand may obstruct effective early detection of the problem. To prevent these errors, the researcher will rely on factual evidence from related studies previously conducted (Sorensen, 2009).


Chambers, J. A., & Swanson, V. (2010). A health assessment tool for multiple risk factors for obesity: Age and sex differences in the prediction of body mass index. The British Journal of Nutrition 104(2), 298-307.

Cheadle, A., Samuels, S. E., Rauzon, S., Yoshida, Sallie C., Schwartz, P. M., Boyle, M. & Solomon, L. (2010). Approaches to measuring the extent and impact of environmental change in three California community-level obesity prevention initiatives. American Journal of Public Health 100(11), 2129-2136.

Grimaldi, D., & Van Etten, D. (2010). Psychosocial adjustments following weight loss surgery. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services 48(3), 24-29.

Johnson, J. G., Cohen, P., Kasen, S., & Brook, J. S. (2014). Childhood adversities associated with risk for eating disorders or weight problems during adolescence or early adulthood. American Journal of Psychiatry 159(3), 394-400.

Juonala, M., Juhola, J., Magnussen, C. G., Würtz, P., Viikari, J. S., Thomson, R., & Raitakari, O. T. (2011). Childhood environmental and genetic predictors of adulthood obesity: the cardiovascular risk in young Finns study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 96(9), 1542-49.

Karr-Morse, R., & Wiley, M. S. (2012). Scared sick: The role of childhood trauma in adult disease, New York, NY: Basic Books.

Lytle, L. A. (2009). Examining the etiology of childhood obesity: The IDEA study. American Journal of Community Psychology 44(3-4), 338-49.

Sorensen, T., I. A. (2009). Challenges in the study of causation of obesity. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 68(1), 43-54.