July 13 (UPI) -- A study at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests maternal obesity is associated with a higher risk of behavior problems in male offspring.
"The study results suggest that early intervention with women to attain healthy weights before they become pregnant is critical to their health and the health of their future children," Barbara Abrams, of the Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, said in a press release.
Recent studies have linked high maternal weight to child behavior and problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Approximately 15 out of every 100 women of childbearing age are severely obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the study, published July 13 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers analyzed data from the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 to assess whether maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index is linked to behavioral problems in school-age children.
The study included nearly 5,000 female participants and their biological children, who were studied between 1986 and 2012, and children age 4 to 14 every two years for any behavioral problems.
The research revealed that boys whose mothers began pregnancy obese were at a higher risk for behavior problems at age 9 to 11, and that the heavier the mothers were in pregnancy, the higher the risk of behavioral problems in their sons.
"Past research looking at a variety of exposures during pregnancy [ranging from stress to chemicals] has shown that boys tend to be more vulnerable to these exposures in utero than girls," explained investigator Juliana Deardorff, of the Community Health Sciences Division, School of Public Health at UC Berkeley, said. "Our study extends this work to maternal obesity."