Understanding Parents' Role in Children’s Weight
Finding a healthy balance of nutrition and creating a feeding style that works for our kiddos is a topic we all can relate to. Many often think that parents’ feeding patterns or baby food choice are a major factor in whether a child is under or overweight.
New research from King’s College London and University College London (UCL) challenges the idea that a child’s weight largely reflects the way their parents feed them. Instead, parents appear to adopt feeding styles in response to their children’s natural body weight, which is largely genetically influenced.
The study notes two types of parental feeding styles that play a role in how parents regulate children's eating habits: (1) restriction of food, which is thought to lead to weight gain because children overeat when the restriction is not there, and (2) pressure to eat, which is thought to make children with low appetites anxious, and compromise weight gain. Instead of dictating children's habits, the research suggests parents are "responding to their child's emerging characteristics, not simply causing them".
Senior author, Dr. Clare Llewellyn from UCL, who is also the co-author of Baby Food Matters, says: "These results show that parents are not the 'full story' when it comes to a child's weight, and blaming parents for being too controlling about feeding may be unfair. But it is unclear whether these natural 'go to' strategies are helpful, harmful, or of no consequence to a child's weight in the long run."
This study is a helpful reminder to consider a comprehensive list of potential factors (environmental, parental, etc) that may contribute to weight gain or loss in children, and to not place blame on one single source.