UNCG Campus Weekly

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Dr. Esther Leerkes

Photo of Dr. Esther LeerkesDr. Esther Leerkes (Human Development and Family Studies) received new funding from the National Institutes of Health Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) for the project “Biopsychosocial predictors of obesity during the first 2 years of life.” Dr. Cheryl Buehler, Dr. Susan Calkins, Dr. Laurie Gold and Dr. Lenka Shriver are co-principal investigators on the project.

According to the abstract, the project will study the early development of risk for obesity in childhood. The risk for obesity in early childhood is likely determined by multiple biological, psychological, and social factors that are observable in infancy.  Researchers propose a conceptual model, a biopsychosocial model, of the early development of risk for obesity that focuses on several key biological, psychological and social factors.

Using an experienced team of investigators from multiple disciplines, the project will investigate this model with an innovative, multi-method, longitudinal study of infants and their families that addresses these factors across the first two years of life. The two key aims focus on understanding factors that predict infant weight gain and the ways in which this weight gain and infant’s social interactions with mothers in feeding and non-feeding contexts predict self-regulation and subsequent obesity risk at age two.  The study has important implications for the development of targeted prevention and intervention programs for families and children that may be utilized early in development, prior to the onset of weight gain that is difficult to reverse.