New research suggests that having a negative perception of a child’s body could result in even greater damages. The study says that children, whose parents considered them to be ‘overweight,’ tended to gain more weight over the following decade.
This has been deduced from an analysis of data from two nationally representative studies, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
They found that children whose parents identified them as overweight were more likely to gain weight as they grew up. As the study put it: “Parents’ identification of their children as overweight [has been] thought to be an important prerequisite to tackling childhood obesity, but recent findings suggest that such parental identification is counter intuitively associated with increased weight gain during childhood.”
Psychology researchers Eric Robinson from University of Liverpool and Angelina Sutin from Florida State University College of Medicine write in their paper, We argue that the stigma attached to being an overweight child may explain why children whose parents view them as being overweight tend to have elevated weight gain during development.”
Researchers looked at contained data for over 2800 Australian families. The study began when the children were ages 4 or 5, and asked parents to describe their children as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or very overweight. These families came back when the children were 12 or 13, and again at 14 or 15.
When they were 12 or 13, the children used a series of images depicting bodies that increased in size to indicate which image most resembled their own body size. The children also reported whether they had engaged in any behaviors in an attempt to lose weight in the previous 12 months.Researchers took height and weight measurements again when the children were 14 or 15 years old.
The results indicated that parents’ perceptions were associated with children’s weight gain 10 years later: Children whose parents considered them to be overweight at age four or five tended to gain more weight by age 14 or 15. The same two authors executed a similar study with 5,886 families in Ireland and found similar results.
In a press release, the authors explained that it’s not totally clear if parents’ opinion about their kids’ bodies actually caused the weight gain, but that the way parents perceive their kids could seriously impact them.