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 journalArticle

13 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



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

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