Obesity Runs in the Family

Home environment a strong predictor of childhood overweight, study finds

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WEDNESDAY, Aug. 17, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Kids raised in homes with poor dietary habits and a couch potato lifestyle are much more likely to be overweight or obese when they're adolescents, a new study confirms.

Their study also found that children were also more likely to be overweight if they had strong social bonds with their overweight or obese parent or parents.

"The closer children are to their parents, the more likely they are to internalize the values and norms that their parents promote or model. Nearly two-thirds of adults are overweight and 30 percent are obese," researcher Ashley Fenzl Crossman, a graduate teaching assistant in the sociology department at Arizona State University, Tempe, said in a prepared statement.

"Other reasons might include overeating due to separation anxiety when the child leaves the home, or parents not wanting to criticize their children's eating habits when they are young," Crossman added.

Her study of about 6,400 children across the United States found that children who grow up in families with poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles are 33.3 percent more likely to become overweight or obese as young adults.

Poor eating habits included factors such as no parental control over the child's diet and skipping breakfast.

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for weight control. And the amount of time spent in sedentary activities is a strong predictor of weight gain," Crossman said.

Children are also more likely to become overweight adolescents if their parents are obese, the study found. Children of parents with higher education levels were less likely to be overweight or obese, as were children with higher levels of self-esteem. Household income didn't have a significant effect.

The study also concluded that children don't need high levels of physical activity to avoid becoming overweight or obese.

"Our research suggests that prevention must begin at home. We need a public health campaign that educates all adults and children in the home on the importance of creating a family environment that promotes healthy habits," Crossman said.

The study was presented Aug. 14 at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Philadelphia.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about your child's weight.

SOURCE: Arizona State University, news release, Aug. 14, 2005

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