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Am J. Prev Med.


This paper is the product of a workshop on the topic of child maltreatment and obesity at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard that brought together the listed authors, who are experts across a number of relevant fields.

Emerging research has highlighted childhood maltreatment and other psychological traumas as risk factors for obesity and related comorbidities.1–3 Although the high rate of obesity in the U.S. affects the entire population, those with histories of maltreatment—making up at least 30% of the population4,5—appear to be at greater risk. Unfortunately, childhood maltreatment is often overlooked as a risk factor for adult obesity, and efforts to prevent and treat obesity underutilize promising trauma-informed approaches. Likewise, clinical care for psychological trauma has unrealized potential as an opportunity for obesity prevention. The aims of this paper are to:

  1. raise awareness of the prevalence of childhood maltreatment;

  2. present current evidence of the child maltreatment–obesity association;

  3. highlight existing research on mechanisms; and

  4. suggest areas for additional research, including trauma-informed obesity interventions that

    Although this paper focuses on childhood maltreatment, particularly physical and sexual abuse, the presented information is potentially relevant to other types of early trauma, such as community violence and peer bullying.





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Licensed to Smith College and distributed CC-BY under the Smith College Faculty Open Access Policy.


Peer reviewed accepted manuscript.

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