Researchers have discovered another reason for obesity in children.
According to the American Obesity Association, 30.3 percent of children between the ages six and 11 are considered overweight.
Even though researchers have previously linked obesity in children to many different factors, a study in this month’s issue of Temple’s Child Abuse & Neglect is the first time obesity has been associated with parental neglect.
Dr. Robert Whitaker, the lead author of the study, said he has found a relation between the two factors.
“This is what I found; emotional influence is in the child’s brain,” Whitaker said.
Obesity can be attributed to many factors, however, the exception lies in three-year-olds. In the past, researchers have not pinpointed many factors to the upbringing of obese toddlers.
This study tested whether maltreatment – which the researchers have divided into three subcategories: neglect, psychological aggression, and corporal punishment – can be associated with obesity.
The study was not conducted to blame obesity on parental negligence, but instead, it attempted to question the issues that can be associated with obesity at an especially young age. Furthermore, it was also meant to admonish and educate parents into using effective discipline that won’t clog the arteries of their children.
However, Whitaker said it is difficult to make an exact conclusion because the sample was not entirely representative of American children as a whole.
“Especially in a study like this, which is an association, this doesn’t mean cause,” Whitaker said. “In a situation like this, it’s difficult to ever prove causality.”
It is not feasible to impose neglect on children to see how their weight is affected, but, according to Whitaker, this is the only method of research that makes sense in a study like this.
Even through its flaws, Whitaker said his method of testing suffices his study. Though a complete representative sample was lacking, Whitaker said the association does exist.
“It is regarded as the most valid way of doing it, even though it is not perfect,” Whitaker said.
Although it may be impossible to ever know if parental negligence are truly correlated,
Whitaker said it is safe to make an association between neglect and its psychological effect on three-year-old children and their weight.
“Aside from knowing the parents are overweight, or from maternal smoking, there are a few factors that are associated with obesity, especially at the age of three,” Whitaker said, “with neglect there is a 50 percent increase in its likelihood.”
Rayan Chatila can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org