A developmental cascade perspective of paediatric obesity: a conceptual model and scoping review

Justin D. Smith*, Kaitlyn N. Egan, Zorash Montaño, Spring Dawson-McClure, Danielle E. Jake-Schoffman, Madeline Larson, Sara M. St. George

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Considering the immense challenge of preventing obesity, the time has come to reconceptualise the way we study the obesity development in childhood. The developmental cascade model offers a longitudinal framework to elucidate the way cumulative consequences and spreading effects of risk and protective factors, across and within biopsychosocial spheres and phases of development, can propel individuals towards obesity. In this article, we use a theory-driven model-building approach and a scoping review that included 310 published studies to propose a developmental cascade model of paediatric obesity. The proposed model provides a basis for testing hypothesised cascades with multiple intervening variables and complex longitudinal processes. Moreover, the model informs future research by resolving seemingly contradictory findings on pathways to obesity previously thought to be distinct (low self-esteem, consuming sugary foods, and poor sleep cause obesity) that are actually processes working together over time (low self-esteem causes consumption of sugary foods which disrupts sleep quality and contributes to obesity). The findings of such inquiries can aid in identifying the timing and specific targets of preventive interventions across and within developmental phases. The implications of such a cascade model of paediatric obesity for health psychology and developmental and prevention sciences are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-293
Number of pages23
JournalHealth Psychology Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018


  • Biopsychosocial model
  • childhood obesity
  • developmental cascade
  • paediatric obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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