Becoming obese in young adulthood: the role of career-family pathways in the transition to adulthood for men and women

Jarl E. Mooyaart, Aart C. Liefbroer, Francesco C. Billari

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


During the transition to adulthood many young adults become obese for the first time in their lives, yet relatively little research has examined why people in this life phase become obese. This study examines what career and family life-course pathways during the transition to adulthood are related to developing obesity in young adulthood.

We use data from the NLSY97, a U.S. nationally representative panel survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics between 1997 to 2013 (N = 4688), and apply multichannel sequence analysis in order to identify clusters of typical career-family pathways during the transition to adulthood (age 17 to 27), and subsequently investigate whether these pathways are associated with becoming obese at the end of young adulthood (age 28), using logistic regression. We control for obesity at age 17 and family background factors (race, parental education, parental income, and family structure). To take into account the fact that the transition to adulthood has a different meaning for men and for women, we also interact career-family clusters with gender.

For women, pathways characterized by college education, early home leaving, and postponement of family formation decrease the probability of becoming obese. For men, pathways characterized by early marriage increase the probability of becoming obese.

The results highlight the importance of gender differences in how career and family pathways are related to becoming obese in young adulthood.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1511
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2019


This research has received monetary support of a European Research Grant. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007–2013) / ERC Grant Agreement n. 324178 (Project: Contexts of Opportunity. PI: Aart C. Liefbroer). The funding body (ERC) had no role in the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.

FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme694262, 324178
European Research Council
Seventh Framework ProgrammeFP/2007–2013


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