Overweight first-graders come from over strict parents

According to a new study having a strict parent may result in children becoming overweight by the time they reach first grade, while parents who show concern but are flexible produce offspring who retain a more normal weight level.

Doctors at the Boston University School of Medicine say they have found that strict mothers are five times more likely to produce overweight children than their lesser strict counterparts.

They also say that parents who set no rules for their children in homes where 'anything goes' produce children who are twice as likely to be overweight.

For the study the researchers distinguished 4 parenting styles, authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and neglectful.

They then linked the styles to overweight status in first grade in school by examining data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development.

The data involved a total of 872 children born in 1991 who were followed for several years.

Overweight was defined as having a BMI of 95th percentile; factors such as gender, race, maternal education, income/needs ratio, marital status, and child behavior problems were all allowed for.

The parents who produced the best results dealing with the weight of their child are considered "authoritative" by the study.

The study's co-authors defined "authoritative" as 'having high expectations for self control but respectful of a child's opinions and who set clear boundaries'.

It seems that a parent who is relatively insensitive to the child's emotional needs and development may impose a structure when eating e.g. eating all on the plate, that results in learning to eat on the basis of external cues rather than internal cues.

The report also suggests that parents who constantly require their children to exercise might create an aversion to exercise.

The researchers found that authoritative parenting resulted in 3.9 percent of the children being overweight, while strict parenting resulted in 17 percent being overweight.

The study "Parenting Styles and Overweight Status in First Grade," is published in the journal Pediatrics.

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