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Associations Between Family Member BMI and Obesity Status of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Dempsey, Jack PhD*; Dempsey, Allison G. PhD; Voigt, Robert G. MD; Monteiro, Sonia MD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: November/December 2017 - Volume 38 - Issue 9 - p 690–696
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000491
Original Articles

Objective: To determine whether there is an association between parent and sibling obesity status and obesity status in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Methods: We examined predictors of obesity in children with ASD with body mass index data for the proband, 1 sibling, and 2 parents using data from the multisite Simons Simplex Collection.

Results: In a stepwise logistic regression model, proband obesity status was associated with obesity status of the sibling (odds ratio [OR] 2.66; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.92–3.70), mother (OR 2.10; 95% CI, 1.59–2.77), and father (OR 1.51; 95% CI, 1.15–1.98). Proband obesity was also related to somatic complaints (OR 1.60; 95% CI, 1.006–2.53), mood stabilizers (OR 1.80; 95% CI, 1.19–2.72), internalizing problems (OR 1.60; 95% CI, 1.14–2.30), age (OR 1.01; 95% CI, 1.00–1.01), and some adaptive functioning domains (OR 0.987; 95% CI, 0.977–0.997). Race, ethnicity, income, sex, and maternal education were not significant predictors.

Conclusion: Familial factors were generally the strongest predictors of obesity rather than medication use, demographics, or psychological characteristics. Results support a family-centered approach to treatment of obesity in children with ASD.

*Section of Psychology, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Autism Center, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX;

Division of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, McGovern Medical School, Center for Clinical Research and Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX;

Section of Developmental Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX.

Address for reprints: Jack Dempsey, PhD, Section of Psychology, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Autism Center, Texas Children'’s Hospital, 8080 N Stadium Drive Ste. 100, Houston, TX 77054; e-mail:

Funding for this study was provided by the Simons Foundation (SSC-15 to A.G.D. [co-investigator]).

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Received January , 2017

Accepted June , 2017

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