A study recently published online in the medical journal Pediatrics suggests that parents who nag children about their weight may actually make them less likely to lose weight.
“Parental perceptions may be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said study co-author Angelina Sutin with the Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee.
Sutin and her colleagues say they were inspired by similar studies performed on adults, which found that “adults who perceive themselves as overweight tend to gain more weight over time than adults who perceive themselves as normal weight.” The new study suggests that a parent’s perception of their child’s weight could be just as important.
“In adulthood, individuals who feel stigmatized because of their weight tend to overeat and avoid physical activity. Similar mechanisms may also operate in childhood. And, even if parents try to limit their children’s food intake, children may rebel and subsequently eat more,” Sutin said.
With childhood obesity rates reaching epidemic proportions, it’s important for parents to realize they play the single biggest role in their child’s weight and overall health. Yet “nagging” kids about losing extra weight isn’t the only way parents can have a negative impact on a young person’s weight.
In 2014, researchers from the University of Oslo and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health published a study that found children of divorce had a 54% higher prevalence of being overweight or obese. While the obesity-divorce link is still tentative, there’s a strong body of research showing that children of divorced parents have an increased risk of Ritalin use, tobacco use, lower life expectancy, stroke, and getting divorced themselves later in life.
That’s especially troubling here in the United States, where 40 to 50% of first marriages and 60% of second marriages end in divorce. In total, there are 2,400 divorces every day.
However, it’s important to note the there is not always a direct cause-and-effect link. For instance, children whose parents have a high-stress relationship actually have improved health outcomes after their parents get divorced.