Possible link between parenting and likelihood for obesity in children

Children raised in environments with frequent affection and dialogue may be at a reduced risk for obesity compared to children raised in households with authoritian parenting styles.

Parents want the best for their children and bear a ton of responsibility for their children’s outcomes. For parents, being aware of communication style, child development and the impacts of how you were parented can lead to healthy outcomes for both parent and child. Development in their child’s academic, social and health aspects are all areas parents are concerned about and are interconnected in so many ways.

A case in point – generous affection, shared dialogue and healthy boundaries between parents and children can provide children with self-confidence and a sense of trust and shared control. This can strengthen their social emotional skill development and healthy behaviors. For these reasons, children raised in environments where these conditions are present may be at a reduced risk for obesity, compared to children raised in households with less affection and dialogue.

Conversely, the impacts of authoritarian parenting may reach both social emotional and health areas of a child’s development. Effects of strict rule based parenting may show up in a child’s behavior when it comes to food and nutrition habits. Possible explanations for the link between parenting and obesity could be that the child feels a sense of control over this one area, or lack of emotional control in terms of reactive impulses as opposed to healthy coping and processing skills.

American Heart Association research potentially links parenting styles to children’s (age zero to 11-years-old) likelihood to be obese. The “iron fist” style of parenting led to a 37 percent higher chance of obesity among kid’s ages 6- to 11-years-old and a 30 percent higher chance among children ages 2- to 5-years-old, according to the abstract.

Parents can build skills and replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones with guidance and support. Approaching issues of obesity through this lens could have powerful impacts on the physical, social and emotional health of families and communities.

Michigan State University Extension educators and instructors offer parenting resources and the Nurturing Families program along with nutrition education across the state. Visit www.msue.msu.edu for more information.

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