Childhood Obesity: a Result of Bad Parenting?

Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that happens when a child’s weight is well above normal standards for his or her age and height and it has become an ever-increasing problem in the last three decades. Between 1976-1980 and 2007-2008, pre-school aged children 2-5 years increased in obesity from 5 to 10. 4%. Among 6-11 year olds, that rate increased from 6. 5 to 19. 6% and from 5 to 18. 1% among adolescents aged 12-19. (Ogden & Carroll, 2010, para. 3).

Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the additional weight can lead to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. (Lap-band Weight Loss Surgery, 2009). Whether attribution for the increase in obesity in children is genetics, behavior, biology, environment, income, parents, or other factors has been the subject of much debate. New approaches to reversing this increase are on the rise. While factors such as genetics and physical activity can contribute to childhood obesity, parenting practices may have the largest impact on a child’s eating behavior”(Parenting Practices, 2010). Due to the prevalence of obesity in children and importance of finding a solution to the problem, this research study has been limited to children aged 2-19 years, but will not limit their location. Research conducted was discovered in databases provided by the Ashford Online Library, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and other trusted scholarly journals found online.

The purpose of this research paper was to investigate the parents’ role in a child’s weight and determine what parents can do to help their overweight children shed those extra pounds and stay healthy. The hypothesis was that by taking a more active role in a child’s physical level of activity and food choices, parents can begin to see a decline in the weight of their children. By being a good role model for children, adults can influence the choices they make. Parents and caregivers influence children’s eating through the type of foods they provide, how meals are structured, their parenting style, role modeling and the family and social environment. Positive early childhood experiences regarding food and the social environment in which children eat are critical to the development of healthy eating habits later in life” (Parents and Caregivers). Jocelyn Block and Melinda Smith (2010) make several recommendations for fighting childhood obesity.

Get the whole family involved, encourage healthy eating habits, be smart about snacks and sweets, watch portion sizes, get your kids moving, reduce screen time, and get involved in your children’s lives. When parents get the entire family involved, the situation becomes more about creating a healthy lifestyle than about the child’s weight. When changes are directed at the whole family, an overweight child does not feel singled out and self-conscious. Be smart about the snacks and sweets that are in the house.

Do not completely ban sweet because this will only encourage children to overindulge when given the chance. Instead, begin providing healthy alternatives such as fruits to quench a craving for candy and vegetables to replace the crunch of chips. Using smaller dishes is a great way to help limit portion sizes. Portions appear bigger and less food is eaten when a smaller plate is used. By limiting a child’s exposure to television and video games to an hour or two a day, children are left with getting active to occupy their time (p. 1). For children, family represents the primary source of social learning, influence, and exposure to and adoption of health habits. Family provides social and interpersonal support that is instrumental in shaping and maintaining children’s eating habits and physical activity patterns” (Chen & Escarce, 2010). By influencing children to be more active and eat healthier, we are “training” them to live a healthier lifestyle as adults. Changes to one’s lifestyle are never easy, but are essential to seeing a decline in society’s weight problem. A study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity reviewed the literature and compared three methods of training to combat childhood obesity: 1) Only children attend sessions; 2) adults and children attend sessions; and 3) only parents attend sessions. Surprisingly, the last was the most effective” (Kushner, 2010).

Thus again showing that, parents play a significant role in the health and lifestyle of their children. According to a research study done by Moria Golan, Abraham Weizman, Alan Apter, and Menahem Fainaru (1997, p. 133) children whose parents were the “sole agents of change” showed a higher rate of weight loss and maintained a stable weight more consistently. They also showed a lower rate of dropout in comparison to experiments where children are responsible for making the changes. . By actively participating in a weight loss program as a role model for their children, overweight parents can also begin to see a decrease in weight. I n another study done by Moria Golan and Scott Crow it was noted by the dietician that, even though t was not measured, children accepted change to diet more easily in the parent-only group “compared with those in the child-only group where the children had to be actively responsible for the necessary change”(2003, p. 360). It is well understood that the level of energy intake needs to be equal to the amount of physical activity so that extra weight is not gained. Therefore, by changing a child’s diet and influencing them to make changes to the amount of physical activity they expend on a regular basis, we can help provide our children with an environment that is conducive to a healthy level of weight.

Childhood obesity, although currently at a plateau in comparison to the recent rise, is a major issue that can and more often than not leads to other serious and sometimes life-threatening problems. Health issues ranging from cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure, and metabolic disorders, like type 2 diabetes, to pulmonary disorders and skeletal abnormalities, including hip problems no longer affect only adults, but also overweight and obese children. Childhood obesity also has psychological and emotional consequences.

The biggest and most studied psychological problem is depression (Daniels, 2006). Remembering back to when you were growing up, the “fat kids” were a large part of the group that got made fun of and probably had fewer friends than other children their age. Obese children that grow up to be obese adults will often raise overweight and obese children of their own. If parents continue to allow their children to over-eat unhealthy food, do not teach them what a healthy diet should be, and allow them to spend all day in front of the television being inactive then this vicious cycle of obesity will only worsen.

Previously conducted research shows that it should be safe to conclude that a balanced meal plan, daily scheduled activity, and encouragement, is paramount in children’s lives. Healthy fruits and vegetables used as snacks and rewards instead of unhealthy chips and soda can help to influence children to make the right decisions when hungry. The result of daily activity is fewer weight problems for active children. Parents and their doctors all over the world need to be determined to change today’s obesity statistics.

Regardless of what it is, something has to be done to stop the cycle of obesity or we will turn into a world of very unhealthy, overweight, underdeveloped adults. As one can see from all the available research parents play a huge role in the lives of their children, especially at an early age when the children are most impressionable. By starting at an early age parents can instill healthy lifestyle habits like the right foods to eat and knowing that exercise is important.

Another advantage to starting at a young age is that later on in life the children will not have to go through drastic lifestyle changes to get to a healthy weight. Parents with children who have already reached the stage of obesity, are well advised to start making changes now. The less time a child spends at such a level of overweight, they are considered obese, the less time it will take them to get back to a healthy weight. More importantly, there is less chance that the excess weight will damage the child’s health. Use this knowledge.

Share this knowledge. Start eating healthy for your sake and the sake of your children. Get up, go outside, have a picnic in the park, play a sport, chase your kids around the yard, just be active. Perhaps someday soon we can see, not a plateau, but a decline in the number of children afflicted with obesity.

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