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Very strict parents more likely to have overweight children

Neglectful parents, who don’t show much affection but also have few rules, were also more likely to have heavy children.

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By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

Very strict parents are more likely to have overweight children, according to a new study.

Scientists say “authoritarian” moms and dads are more likely to have overweight offspring than "warm but firm" parents.

Researchers at Imperial College London claim this is because very strict parents don’t let their children regulate their diet properly- by getting a snack when they need to or stopping eating when they are full.

They argue that parenting classes could help moms and dads understand the importance of how they raise their little ones on their physical health.

Study author Alexa Segal explained: “Authoritarian mothers are characterized by being demanding and controlling while having low warmth and responsiveness."

“This could lead to them not responding to their child’s hunger cues by, for example, not allowing them to select a snack when hungry, and/or asserting control over the child’s food intake by, for example, putting them under pressure to clean their plate when they are not hungry.

“This control means that the child does not develop their own ability to regulate their own energy intake, meaning they might overindulge when they have the ability.”

The team also found neglectful parents, who don’t show much affection but also have few rules, were more likely to have heavy children.

Youngsters with authoritarian or neglectful parents were found to be around 3.3lb (1.5kg) heavier than kids with warm but firm parents.

The link was found at all ages and held up when variables such as age, sex and height were accounted for.

For the study, the team analysed data on more than 10,000 British children who took part in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

They examined links between parenting styles and kids' weight when they were seven, 11, 13, 16 and 23 years old.

Parents answered questionnaires about how they bought up their little ones and some of them were filmed interacting with their kids.

Boy having choice - healthy or unhealthy lunch
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

The team divided parenting styles into four categories; authoritative, authoritarian, permissive and neglectful.

Authoritative parents maintained clear boundaries while showing warmth while authoritarian parents were strict and showed their children little affection.

Permissive parents were nice but kept too few rules and neglectful parents were emotionally uninvolved with their children and had few rules.

Permissive parents also had heavier children but the team say the link is “not statistically significant” and lessened with age.

Ms Segal added: “The effect of parenting style on a child’s weight is often considered a taboo subject.

“However, a comprehensive understanding of the associations between parenting style and childhood and adolescent obesity has great potential to inform obesity policy and contribute to the development of more effective health and nutrition programmes.

“Our findings can help inform obesity prevention and treatment programmes by acting as a reminder to policymakers that modifiable risk factors for childhood obesity have significant roots within the home.

“Future interventions and studies could explore whether parenting styles can be adapted to be warmer and more authoritative.

“Future childhood obesity programmes could include parent support classes, where parents learn the importance of parenting style in preventing obesity.

“In cases where a child is already living with obesity, doctors and others providing support might consider stressing the effect that a lack of parental warmth has on a child’s weight.”

President of the World Obesity Federation Professor Louise Baur added: “This study highlights the fundamental importance of parents in raising healthy children.

“The world today often makes it difficult for children and families to eat well, be physically active, sleep well and cope with stress.

“Parents who are able to set appropriate limits for their child, while bringing warmth and sensitivity to the relationship, may be better able to help their child be as healthy as possible.”

The findings were presented at the International Congress on Obesity in Melbourne, Australia.

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