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Childhood Obesity: Children More Likely To Get Fat If Parents Think They Are Overweight

Update Date: Jan 16, 2017 02:44 AM EST

The issue of childhood obesity is one that many parents are facing today. In addition to childhood obesity, the on-going debate of positive body image is a controversial topic that just adds to the burden of both parents and child. But in an unexpected twist, a research found that children are more likely to get fat or gain weight if their parents think they are overweight.

The study, conducted by Eric Robinson of the University of Liverpool and Angelina Sutin of the Florida State University, found that parents' perception of their child's weight has a negative impact on the child and would most likely gain weight in the future because of this. In addition, children whose parents think they are overweight also most likely attempted to lose weight but gained weight instead.

The research, published in Psychological Science, analyzed data from two studies where children's weight and height were recorded from when they were 4 to 5 years old, and again ten years later. Parents were then asked to best describe their child's weight as underweight, normal weight, overweight, and very overweight.

Ten years later, when the children were around the ages of fourteen and fifteen, they were asked by the researchers what the children think best describes their body size now. The children were also asked if for the past twelve months they attempted to lose weight.

The researchers first analyzed data collected from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children from 2,823 Australian families and found that most children whose parents though they were overweight when they were younger tended to gain weight now that the children are older.

In addition, the children whose parents thought they were overweight negatively saw their own perceived body size and attempted to lose weight during the previous twelve months as well. The results were the same regardless of gender.

The same results were seen from the second data analyzed by the researchers. The data was collected from 5,886 Irish families who participated in the Growing Up in Ireland study. What baffled the researchers was that the pattern of perception and weight gain could not be explained by factors such as household income, the presence of a medical condition, or their own parents' weights.

The study was not able to determine whether parents' perception caused their children's weight gain ten years after. On the other hand, the researchers found parents' perception of their children's weight has possible negative effects on their children's health.

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