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The prevalence of childhood obesity has increased globally over the past three decades, with evidence of recent leveling off in developed countries. Reduction in the, currently high, prevalence of obesity will require a full understanding of the biological and social pathways to obesity in order to develop appropriately targeted prevention strategies in early life. Determinants of childhood obesity include individual level factors, including biological, social, and behavioral risks, acting within the influence of the child's family environment, which is, in turn, imbedded in the context of the community environment. These influences act across childhood, with suggestions of early critical periods of biological and behavioral plasticity. There is evidence of sex and gender differences in the responses of boys and girls to their environments. The evidence that determinants of childhood obesity act at many levels and at different stages of childhood is of policy relevance to those planning early health promotion and primary prevention programs as it suggests the need to address the individual, the family, the physical environment, the social environment, and social policy. The purpose of this narrative review is to summarize current, and emerging, literature in a multilevel, life course framework.