Early Adult Obesity and U.S. Women's Lifetime Childbearing Experiences

Published in: Journal of Marriage and Family, v. 75, no. 4, Aug. 2013, p. 920-932

Posted on RAND.org on April 08, 2015

by Michelle L. Frisco, Margaret M. Weden

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Literature from multiple disciplines suggests that women who are obese during early adulthood may accumulate social and physiological impediments to childbearing across their reproductive lives. This led the authors to investigate whether obese young women have different lifetime childbearing experiences than leaner peers by analyzing data from 1,658 female participants in the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Study sample members were nulliparous women ages 20-25 in 1982. The authors examined their childbearing experiences between 1982 and 2006 and found that young women who were obese at baseline had higher odds of remaining childless and increased odds of underachieving fertility intentions than young women who were normal weight at baseline. These results suggest that obesity has long-term ramifications for women's childbearing experiences with respect to whether and how many children women have in general and relative to the number of children they want.

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