1 Scopus citations


What would it mean to take seriously a radically dynamic, life course approach to the epigenesis of obesity? This essay brings together concepts and perspectives from developmental systems theory, evolutionary developmental psychology, critical epidemiology, and public and population health into a complex systems framing of the problem of obesity. It begins with a survey of a variety of partial (reductionistic) approaches, and then synthesizes them more adequately and productively via the notion of biological embedding. As a hypothesis, biological embedding forces our attention toward the biology of embodiment, the pathways and mechanisms by which multilevel factors at multiple time scales constitute us even within our own skin. In this view, embryology, anthropology, urban planning, and geriatrics are as important to understanding obesity as nutritional science and health promotion. The essay concludes with reflections on this synthetic epigenetic approach in the quest for understanding human development, in sickness as in health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-106
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Development
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Biological embedding
  • Developmental systems theory
  • Embodiment
  • Epigenesis
  • Epigenetics
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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