Parental Obesity Linked to Inhibit Child Development

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Findings from the American National Institute of Health, indicate children of obese parents may be at risk for developmental delays.

It is reported that children of obese mothers were more prone to fail tests in fine motor skill development, the skill to control movement of small muscles.

Children of obese fathers were more likely to fail in social competence. Children born to extremely obese parents tended to fail tests in problem-solving ability.

Scientists at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) say the new study is unique, providing a comprehensive view of child development in the area of parental obesity.

Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., an investigator in NICHD’s Division of Intramural Population Health Research states “Our study is one of the few that also includes information about fathers, and our results suggest that dad’s weight also has significant influence on child development.”

More than 5,000 women enrolled in the study designed to assess their child’s development. Parents completed the Questionnaires after doing a series of activities with their children. It was intended as a screen for potential problems, so children could be referred if issues were discovered.

Compared to children of normal weight mothers, children of obese mothers were nearly 70 percent more likely to have failed the test indicator on fine motor skill by age three.
Children of obese fathers were 75 percent more likely to fail the personal-social domain assessment which is the ability to relate to and interact with others. Children with two obese parents were nearly three times more likely to fail the problem-solving section by age three.

The question many ask regarding these results is why. What is the reason why these children are failing to thrive physically, emotionally and psychologically?

Perhaps the reason is because many obese parents are unable to physically interact with their child compared to slimmer parents. Obese parents may be restricted from getting down to the child’s level on the floor to play building blocks, Lego type construction, teach skipping, throw, catch or kick a ball; all necessary for advancing fine and gross motor skill development.

There is still little research to indicate the reason children are failing the problem-solving skill section, but this may be partly due to to the lack of interaction both emotionally and physically with the parent. Most children learn by modelling, and many parts of problem-solving are done through exploration and play. If the obese parents are unable to interact with their child at this level, the child fails to thrive or acquire these necessary skills.

Enrolling the child in day-care and preschool education can partly correct this lack of development enabling the child to develop these skills.

Perhaps rather than an obesity issue it is more of an interaction and stimulation issue. The assumption is the more obese, the less able the parent may be at undertaking such activities with their young child. If, however, parents were taught how to interact differently, if they do experience obesity problems, this may allay the issues in development and improve the outcome of the children.

I also wonder what affect the interaction with devices is having on the development of the young child regardless of the weight of their parents. Perhaps more research is needed to determine this aspect of child development rather than only blaming obesity. Of course, obesity may restrict many people from physical interaction but device time may be a more weighted reason.

The study concluded ‘If the link between parental obesity and developmental delays is confirmed, researchers believe physicians may need to take parental weight into account when screening young children for delays and early interventional services.’

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