A new study of 37,000 Canadian children says that childhood obesity may be linked to parenting styles. The study found that whether a person parents his or her child with an authoritarian, authoritative, or permissive parenting style has a substantial effect on whether the children suffered from obesity.
The new study was revealed at a meeting of the American Heart Association on Wednesday. Before now, there had not yet been a serious look at how parenting styles can affect childrens’ health (including obesity). However, the study of 37,000 Canadian youngsters aged zero to 11 showed that several factors, including their moms and dads being stricter or more relaxed in their parenting strategies, their parents’ responses to their actions, and having praise given or withheld from them for positive behaviors, had a substantial effect on their levels of obesity.
The study indicated that, compared with the children of authoritative parents (who are more understanding when their kids break the rules), the children of authoritarian parents (who adhere to a stricter and less permissive parenting style), were 30 percent more likely to deal with obesity by ages two to five. In addition, children ages six to 11 with authoritarian parents were 37 percent more likely than kids of authoritative parents to be obese.
Two of the four groups of parenting styles – authoritarian and authoritative – were focused on in the study. Authoritarian parents set strict guidelines for their children and expect adherence to their rules with no negotiation with the children. Authoritative parents set rules, boundaries, and limits with their kids, but even so, talk with their children when they break the rules, without punishing their kids the way that authoritarian parents do.
The new childhood obesity study says that when adults with authoritarian parenting styles restrict foods, such as sweets and junk foods, it may be linked to a kid’s greater desire to eat that food because it is off limits, causing early obesity in that child. The authoritarian parenting style often controls how much the child can eat, limiting snacks and meals and not letting the child decide when he or she is full, which may cause secret snacking later on. On the other hand, unhealthy foods are often more readily available to young children by authoritative parents, which causes kids to place less value on junk food because it is not restricted. In addition, authoritarian parents neglected to give young kids praise for eating healthy foods, whereas authoritative parents often issued positive feedback to their children for making better food choices, which reinforced the healthy eating behaviors.
It was also found that stress played a major role in kids’ bad eating habits. Children of authoritative parents, who were less lenient and forgiving when their children made a mistake, underwent higher levels of stress in the home, which often led to snacking for comfort. Authoritative parents’ children, on the other hand, were more secure and showed lower levels of stress, not needing to turn to food for comfort.
According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children. In adolescents, it has more than quadrupled. In 2012, over one third of children and adolescents were recorded as overweight or obese. With this new study saying that childhood obesity may be linked to parenting styles, experts are now hoping that it can be beneficial and informative in taking the next steps to solve the childhood obesity problem.
By Laura Clark