"Obesity and Women's Fertility Trajectories"
Michelle L. Frisco, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology
Pennsylvania State University
This study asks whether obesity is associated with young women’s life course childbearing experiences. Weight is a physical status with important biological and social components that is linked to several proximate determinants of fertility. As such, negative consequences of obesity may accumulate over the life course leading obese young women to be stratified into disadvantaged positions for childbearing. This leads to hypotheses that obese young women have fewer children, a higher risk of remaining childless and later timing of first birth than their non-obese counterparts. Twenty-three years of data from a sample of NLSY79 female respondents who were 20 - 24 in 1981 are analyzed to test these hypotheses, which are all supported. In fact, obese women’s predicted probability of remaining childless is almost the same as their probability of winning a coin toss. Their estimated probability for giving birth in each study year is even lower. Results confirm obese young women’s position of disadvantage for childbearing and suggest that negative consequences of obesity accumulate across a life domain that is incredibly important for the vast majority of American women.
About the Speaker:
Dr. Michelle L. Frisco is an Associate Professor of Sociology & Demography at Penn State University. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin and was a Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 2003-2005. Her research focuses on intersections between family life, education, and health/health risk-behavior during adolescence and the transition to adulthood. Much of her previous scholarship identifies the ways that family structure, family structure transitions, and different aspects of parenting influence adolescent health and well-being. Her most recent research, has examined the consequences of body weight for adolescent mental health and family formation trajectories with an eye towards understanding the complexities in these associations. This work has been supported by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the Penn State BIRCWH Scholars Program (a U.S. National Institutes of Health-supported career development award focused on interdisciplinary research on women’s health and gender differences in health). She is also part of a team that was recently awarded a program project grant from NICHD to examine the health and well-being of children of Mexican immigrants. Her work with colleagues on the project will identify different contextual features of U.S. and Mexican society that contribute to childhood obesity among this group.
Cecil Green Coach House
Green College, UBC