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Open Access Research article

Parent-rated behavior problems associated with overweight before and after controlling for sleep disordered breathing

Shelagh A Mulvaney1*, Kristine L Kaemingk2, James L Goodwin3 and Stuart F Quan3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing and Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

2 Department of Pediatrics, University of Arizona, College of Medicine, Tucson, Arizona, USA

3 Arizona Respiratory Center, University of Arizona, College of Medicine, Tucson, Arizona, USA

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BMC Pediatrics 2006, 6:34  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-6-34

Published: 14 December 2006

Abstract

Background

Researchers and clinicians are seeking to develop efficacious behavioral interventions to treat overweight children; however, few studies have documented the behavioral correlates of overweight children in community samples. The goal of this study was to determine the nature and prevalence of behavior problems for overweight school-aged children versus normal weight peers before and after controlling for the effect of sleep disordered breathing.

Methods

Hispanic and Caucasian children were invited to participate in a study of sleep through public elementary school classrooms. Anthropometric evaluation and behavioral ratings were collected for 402 children aged 6–11 years. Overweight was calculated using the Centers for Disease Control age- and gender-specific guidelines. Children were classified as overweight if they were at or above the 95th percentile for their age and gender group. Behavior problems were measured using the Conners' Parent Rating Scales-Revised and the Child Behavior Checklist. Sleep disordered breathing was assessed using in-home overnight polysomnography.

Results

Approximately 15% (59/402) of the sample was classified as overweight. Simple odds ratios indicated that overweight children were more likely to have clinically relevant levels of internalizing symptoms (OR 2.23, CI 1.05–4.72), psychosomatic complaints (OR 2.15, CI 1.02–4.54), withdrawal (OR 4.69, CI 2.05–10.73), and social problems (3.18, 1.53–6.60). When odds ratios were adjusted for level of sleep disordered breathing, withdrawal (OR 3.83 CI 1.59–9.22) and social problems (OR 2.49 CI 1.14–5.44) remained significantly higher for overweight subjects.

Conclusion

After controlling for the effect of sleep disordered breathing, behaviors such as withdrawal and social problems, are common in overweight children and need to be taken into account in the design of interventions and services as they may act to moderate the efficacy of behavioral treatments.