Is childhood obesity caused only by lack of physical activity and improper diet? This myth was broken by the latest study conducted in Rice University and the University of Houston.

According to the new study, family structure of the child plays an important role in determining the child’s body weight.

The overall development of the child is collectively seen from the parent’s socio economic status as well as the nutrition and the amount of physical exercise provided. The body weight of the child is not only determined by the above mentioned factors but also the family structure of the child.

The research study was carried out by Jennifer M. Augustine, Ph.D. of UH and Rachel T Kimbro of Rice. They compared the obesity rates of preschool children living in different households.

Obesity rates in different family structures:
The obesity rate of children living in a two-parent traditional household was relatively less compared to the those living in a non traditional family structure. It was 17% and 31% respectively.

The kids raised by cohabiting parents, (parents living together but are not married) have the highest rate of obesity of 31%. The next highest number was found in children living with an adult relative, which was noted as 29%.

About 23% obesity rate was noted in children living with step parents or children cohabiting with single mothers. Children living with biological-parents but are divorced have an obesity rate of 21%.

Only 17% obesity rate was found in traditional family structure where the child stays with married biological parents. The exception of this finding was seen in children who live with single fathers or in married step parent households as being 15%.

Key findings of the study:
According to experts, obesity rates in single father households was far less than the single mother households as the socio economic resources of the former is much more than the latter.

Kimbro stated, “Previous research has shown that single-father households tend to have more socioeconomic resources than single-mother households, And since socioeconomic status is the single greatest predictor of health, it serves to explain why children in single-father households may be less likely to be obese.”

The research study involved the parents of the children being interviewed from when the child was 9 months old till the child turned 2. The findings of the study were relatively unexpected. The findings of the study are as follows:

1) Children who belonged to well to do families and stayed along with their biologically married parents were more obese than kids who cohabited with married stepfathers, stepfathers cohabiting with the child’s mother or typically just the step father. This finding throws light on the economic structure of the families and how the risks of obesity is higher in affluent traditional family structures than a poor household.

2)The children living in the step-parent families have greater obesity risks than those who stay with married biological parents. Availability of material resources like computer access and busy lifestyles of parents, thus less monitored children are key factors of obesity.

3)Finally the study concluded that in kids living with married, biological parents the obesity risk can be higher if the mother of the child is less educated or the economic status of the family is low.

A pattern in the rates of obesity based on the family structure is still not too clear, but experts feel however the kids health is directly proportional to that of the mother.

The socio economic status of the families play a very important role in determining the obesity rates among children. Affluent children cohabiting with step parents were 67% more obese than those raised by married biological parents. Similarly poor children cohabiting with married, biological parents were at 38% more obesity risk than affluent kids with the same family structure.

The socioeconomic factors did not play a vital role in non traditional family structures.

” In fact, poor children living with a father, cohabiting step-parent or married step-parent had lower odds of obesity than children in non-poor married biological households.”, concluded the study.

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