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Durham University

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Early life influences on obesity and fat patterning in children:critical periods, environmental determinants, and socio-cultural context

A research project of the Department of Anthropology, part of the Medical Anthropology research group.


The overall aim of this project is to bring together biological, environmental and socio-cultural research to provide a truly multi-disciplinary approach to understanding pathways to obesity and opportunities for prevention. The project is located in Adelaide, Australia, and involves a cohort of 550 children (and their mothers).

The three aims are to:

  1. To investigate the proposal that early life is a critical period for adiposity
  2. To identify underlying early environmental determinants of adiposity.
  3. To examine the socio-cultural and economic circumstances in which adverse exposures occur

Ethnographic work already conducted with the cohort has explored why there may be a marked inverse socio-economic gradient for obesity in affluent countries. We are currently extending this part of the project to gain an in-depth understanding of the ways in which the predisposition to obesity may be socially transmitted across generations and the implications of gender and class in these contexts.


Key publications to date (from the ethnographic component include):
Warin, M., Turner, K., Moore, M & Davies, M (2006) Bodies, mothers and identities: rethinking obesity and the BMI, Sociology of Health and Illness. (Due for publication Jan 2008)

Published Results

Journal Article

  • Warin, Megan, Turner, Karen, Moore, Vivienne & Davies, Michael (2008). Bodies, mothers and identities: rethinking obesity and the BMI. Sociology of Health and Illness 30(1): 97-111.


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