Background: Adolescents with obesity have lower academic performance, but little is known about the association between body weight in early childhood and school readiness. The objective was to examine the association between age- and sex-standardized body mass index (zBMI) and body weight status and school readiness in young children. Methods: A prospective cohort study in Toronto, Canada, was conducted in young children enrolled in TARGet Kids!. Children’s weight and height were measured before the start of kindergarten. Children’s school readiness was measured by the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a validated teacher-completed instrument that assesses children’s skills and behaviors in five developmental domains in kindergarten. Generalized estimating equations, adjusted for relevant confounders, were used in the analysis. Results: The study included 1015 children (1217 observations): 52% were male and mean age at zBMI was 4.2 years [50 months (SD 12.1)] and school readiness was 5.2 years [62.7 months (SD 6.9)]. There was no evidence found that zBMI was associated with school readiness. However, in a post hoc analysis, being classified as overweight or with obesity in kindergarten was associated with twofold higher odds of vulnerability in school readiness and a lower social competence score compared with their normal weight peers.
Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute