A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics examined the attitude of parents towards their obese children. These parents often refuse to recognize the serious health consequences of childhood weight gain or the importance of daily physical activity in helping their child reach a healthy weight. The study examined 202 parents and their children whose children were enrolled in an obesity clinic at the Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island in 2008 and 2009. Questionnaires investigated parents’ readiness to take actionable steps to improve their child’s eating habits and physical activity levels. The children in this study ranged from 5-20 years old. Ninety four percent were classified as obese.
“Parents have a hard time changing their child’s dietary and physical activity behaviors,” said lead author Kyung Rhee, MD, and an assistant adjunct professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University School of Medicine. “Our study tells us what factors may be associated with a parent’s motivation to help their child become more healthy.”
The results of the study revealed that thirty one percent of parents perceived their child’s health as excellent and 28 % did not believe that their child’s wright was a health concern; despite most of the children in this study being referred to the obesity clinic by a primary care provider and they had metabolic markers of obesity.
Physical activity was viewed as the least important strategy in encouraging a healthy life style in a child. Sixty one percent of parents reported that they were improving their child’s eating habits (less junk food, more fruits and vegetables) while only 41.1 percent said they were increasing their child’s involvement in active play, sports, dancing or even walking. Both diet and exercise are considered keys to good health, and a growing body of evidence suggests that these health habits are formed early in life.
Parents who themselves battled with weight issues were substantially less likely to address their child’s eating habits.
Kyung E. Rhee, Rebecca McEachern, Elissa Jelalian. Parent Readiness to Change Differs for Overweight Child Dietary and Physical Activity Behaviors. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.04.029