Childhood abuse victimization, stress-related eating, and weight status in young women

Susan M. Mason, Richard F. MacLehose, Sabra L. Katz-Wise, S. Bryn Austin, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Bernard L. Harlow, Janet W. Rich-Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose: Abuse in childhood predicts stress-related overeating and excess weight gain in young women. We investigated whether two stress-related overeating behaviors-binge eating and coping-motivated eating-explain childhood abuse associations with weight status in young women. Methods: Analyses included 4377 women participating in the Growing Up Today Study, a longitudinal cohort of youth enrolled at age 9 to 14years. We used marginal structural models to estimate the effects of abuse before age 11years on weight status at age 22 to 29years with and without adjustment for binge eating and coping-motivated eating. Results: Women with severe physical, sexual, and emotional abuse had early adult body mass indexes (BMIs) that were 0.74kg/m2 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.15-1.33), 0.69 (95% CI:-0.46 to 1.83), and 0.85 (95% CI: 0.24-1.45) kg/m2 higher, respectively, than those without abuse. Adjustment for coping-motivated eating attenuated the excess BMI associated with severe physical abuse, but no other important attenuations were found. Conclusions: Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse before age 11years were associated with higher early adult weight status, although the sexual abuse estimate was not statistically significant. Evidence for a role of stress-related eating in abuse-BMI associations was limited and inconsistent across abuse types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)760-766.e2
JournalAnnals of epidemiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research is supported by the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health Grant (# K12HD055887 ) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the Office of Research on Women's Health , and the National Institute on Aging , National Institutes of Health , administered by the University of Minnesota Deborah E. Powell Center for Women's Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the office views of the NICHD or NIH.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


  • Body mass index
  • Child abuse
  • Eating disorders
  • Hyperphagia
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Psychological stress
  • Violence


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