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Jun 05, 2014 01:05 PM EDT

Children Of Divorced Parents Are More Likely To Be Overweight, Obese

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Children of divorced parents are more likely to be overweight or obese, according to a recent study Live Science reported.

Researchers in Norway found that when compared to kids whose parents are still married or cohabitating, kids from divorced homes were 54 percent more likely to be overweight or obese, and 89 percent more likely to have abdominal obesity.

This may be because a divorce may disrupt parent-child relationship, cause continuing conflict between parents or result in a house move.

"Such emotional stress may impact on eating behavior and physical activity level and thus explain the development and maintenance of childhood overweight and obesity," researchers said in the study, according to Medical News Today.

For the study, researchers collected and analyzed data from more than 3,000 third graders in Norway. They measured each child's weight, height and waist circumference, and calculated body mass index and waist-to-height ratio, Live Science reported. Details on the marital status of kids' parents were also gathered.

The participants were divided into three groups: married, divorced and never married, which included couples who were living together and parents who were single or had separated.

Researchers found that a higher percentage of girls were overweight or obese in comparison to boys, regardless of their parents marital status.

However, when the parents' marital status was accounted for, researchers found that boys with divorced parents were 63 more likely to be overweight or obese and 104 percent more likely to be abdominally obese when compared to boys of married parents.

"We now have knowledge about how childhood overweight and obesity is distributed" among the Norwegian population, study author Anna Biehl, a doctoral candidate at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, told Live Science.

However, Biehl said the results do not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between family structure and children being overweight and obese in Norway.

The findings were recently published in the online journal BMJ Open.

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