Parental Time To Be Key in Fight Against Childhood Obesity

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2006-08-10 20:19

Child Obesity and Parents

The fight against obesity in children just got a new weapon, thanks to a multi-year study by researchers from Texas A&M University.

The study found that the amounts and quality of time parents spent with their children has a direct effect on children's rates of obesity, said Dr. Alex McIntosh, lead researcher. McIntosh is professor of sociology with a research appointment from Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture study, "Parental Time, Role Strain and Children's Fat Intake and Obesity-Related Outcomes," was published in June.

In general, researchers found the amount of time a mother spent with her child, her work stress and her income level had a larger impact in lowering the child's risk of obesity than the father's time, work stress and income, McIntosh said.

Furthermore, the more time a mother spends with the child, the less likely that child is to be obese; conversely, the more time a father spends with a child, the more likely the child will be obese, he said.

"The impacts were greater for 9- to 11-year-old children than for 13- to 15-year-old children," he added.

As a sociologist, McIntosh has long wondered how parents influence their children's nutritional habits, he said.

"The project has been in my head for well over 10 years," he said. "For a long time we thought that parents ought to influence what their kids eat, but we were not sure how that worked."

And that's what the Texas A&M researchers set out to find, he said.

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