Parental Stress Can Keep Kids Obese

Helping children slim down may mean helping parents, study finds

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THURSDAY, Aug. 23, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Parental stress or bullying by peers can make it even tougher for overweight or obese children to get healthy, a U.S. study finds.

"If a parent is distressed, that seems to impact a child's symptoms of depression, which then impacts quality of life. It's the same with peer victimization. It impacts depression, which then impacts quality of life. And it seems to affect not just the emotional aspect of quality of life, but also their health status," lead author David Janicke, assistant professor of clinical and health psychology in the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, in Gainesville, said in a prepared statement.

His team surveyed 96 overweight or obese children and their parents.

They found that youngsters whose parents were struggling with stress or depression had more depressive symptoms and a lower overall quality of life. The same was true for children who reported more problems with peers.

"One of the pathways to poor quality of life seems to be childhood depression," Janicke noted. He said parental support is critical in helping children make healthy lifestyle choices.

Parents struggling with stress or depression may not have the energy to provide emotional support, plan healthy meals, or organize exercise activities for their children, the researchers said. Providing support for distressed parents may be an effective way of helping overweight/obese children, Janicke suggested.

Learning more about the factors that affect the well-being of overweight children could help improve methods of treating these children, he added.

The study was published in the journal Obesity.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases outlines what parents can do to help overweight children.

SOURCE: University of Florida, news release, August 2007

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