Warmth of parenting could affect children’s food self-regulation abilities
  • Researchers evaluated the weight of over 10,000 children in the UK
  • Authoritarian or neglectful parenting was linked to a higher weight in children
  • Study finds parenting styles may influence children’s potential food relationships

Data analysis on 10,510 children in the UK has found that authoritarian and neglectful parenting in early childhood was linked with higher weight throughout childhood and adolescence.

In the first study of its kind, parenting styles were divided into four categories based on questionnaires which were filled in by parents and children.

Parenting styles were categorised as authoritative (clear boundaries but warm), authoritarian (strict discipline with little warmth), permissive (empathic with few rules) and neglectful or uninvolved (emotionally uninvolved with few rules).

Children who had authoritarian or neglectful parents up to the age of 7 were more likely to weigh 1.5kg (3.3lbs) more than their counterparts experiencing other parent styles.

The researchers, who analysed the data collected over 20 years, suggested that children who did not receive sufficient attention and affection from their family may turn to comfort eating. In other words, disrupting the child’s ability to self-regulate their food intake.

Globally, childhood obesity is a growing problem. In the UK, 27.7% of children aged 4 to 5 years olds are overweight or obese. This increases to 40.9% by the time they reach 10-11 years of age.

Prof Louise Baur, the president of the World Obesity Federation, said: “This study highlights the fundamental importance of parents in raising healthy children.”

The study was presented at the International Congress on Obesity taking place in Melbourne.

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