Strict parents who don’t communicate well put their children at a greater risk of obesity, according to a study I read about recently.
The American Heart Association (AHA) conducted the study and identified the following parenting styles:
- Authoritative: Parents are demanding but also responsive to their kids’ needs
- Authoritarian: Parents are demanding but not responsive
- Permissive: Parents are responsive to their kids, but not demanding
- Negligent: Parents are neither demanding nor responsive
The data was collected from 37,577 kids ages 11 and under in Canada from 1994 to 2008. The kids with authoritarian or strictest parents had a 30 percent higher chance of being obese among kids 2 to 5 years old and a 37 percent higher chance among kids 6 to 11 years.
It’s important to note that children whose parents use a permissive style of parenting are also at a higher risk for obesity.
Questioning the results
I don’t have any doubts as to the validity of this study, but I still find it hard to believe strict parenting impacts the risk of childhood obesity to such a high level. I think most of us would agree that parenting styles in the early to mid-20th century were strict and involved less communication. So according to this study, childhood obesity would have been an epidemic. We know that’s not the case. There was a very low incidence of obesity throughout those years.
Although I believe my observation is valid, there’s no doubt that parenting style has some impact. Poverty is another factor increases the risk of childhood obesity.
The study recognized that poverty increases the risk of obesity, but did say that parenting styles will still be an influence regardless of a family’s income level.
“Even if you control for the poverty, the parenting style can still make a difference,” said study author Lisa Kakinami, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal.
Other risk factors are being researched
Researchers are exploring additional problems that increase the risk of obesity in children. Cynthia Davis, of the Harvard Medical School, said: “This dovetails nicely with our work that demonstrates links between childhood adversity and obesity.” She and her colleagues look at more extreme problems in childhood, such as abuse, alcoholic parents and domestic violence. They believe that they have uncovered biological changes that explain the correlation.
What parents can take away from the study
The results of the study clearly indicate the authoritative style of parenting helps lower the risk of a child becoming obese. “Parents should at least be aware of their parenting style,” says Lisa Kakinami, PhD, study author from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. “If you’re treating your child with a balance of affection and limits – these are the kids who are least likely to be obese.”
Reading this study had a positive impact on me in my own life, as a parent. It reinforced the fact that I need to continue to have good communication and maintain healthy boundaries with my kids. They will continue to know they’re loved and will always know I am there for them.