“Childhood Obesity: Is Mom to Blame?”

by Brooke on September 9, 2014

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There has been a controversial PSA called, “Childhood Obesity: Is Mom to Blame” circulating around social media.  This PSA indicates that parents are to blame for the childhood obesity epidemic.  Haven’t seen the PSA yet?  Click here.

There are numerous factors affecting childhood overweight and obesity!  However, it is not in left field to say that parents play a crucial role in establishing their child’s health and lifestyle behaviors.   Research has shown that there is a strong correlation between parental and childhood obesity.  One study observing 4,788 child-mother-father trios showed that two of the strongest indicators for a child to be overweight was the weight of their parents before their birth (pre-pregnancy) and the weight of their parents when they reached 16-years-old.  Another study conducted by Whitaker et al. concluded that, “parental obesity more than doubles the risk of adult obesity among both obese and nonobese children under 10 years of age.”

It is also interesting that a few studies examining childhood obesity and mother-child feeding patterns showed that by offering only a few food choices their children were more likely to have a lower BMI.  This outcome can also be applied to adults too.  Most children, teens, and adults when presented with multiple food choices may have a hard time choosing only one option and limiting their calorie intake.  It is the parents role to offer healthy options at each meal; however, it is the child’s role to determine how much he/she wants to consume.

The bottom line is that parents need to be role models for their children, because they do effect their child’s short- and long-term health and lifestyle behaviors.



Endevelt et al. An intensive family intervention clinic for reducing childhood obesity. J Am Board Fam Med. 2014 May-Jun;27(3):321-8.

Faith et al. Maternal-Child Feeding Patterns and Child Body Weight:  Findings From a Population-Based Sample. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157(9):926-932.

Faith et al. Relation between mothers’ child-feeding practices and children’s adiposity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;75581- 586.

Jääskeläinen et al. Intergenerational transmission of overweight among Finnish adolescents and their parents: a 16-year follow-up study. Int Jour Obes (Lond). 2011; 35:1289-1294.

Whitaker et al. Predicting obesity in young adulthood from childhood and parental obesity. N Engl J Med. 1997;337869- 873.



{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanna September 10, 2014 at 5:07 pm

I agree! Children absoultely mirror their parents’ eating habits and activity level. I’m lucky to have grown up playing sports and having fruits and vegetables at every meal. As an adult, I can’t live without exercise and love healthy eating! I run a weight management program for adults and if the client doens’t have an appreciation for healthy foods and activity, it seems like they usually grew up eating convenience foods and having a sedentary childhood. It’s vital for parents to lead a healthy lifestyle themselves so they aren’t setting their children up for failure.


Brooke September 10, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Thanks for commenting and sharing your work experience Joanna!


Katie @ Balanced RD September 15, 2014 at 8:30 pm

I totally agree! Childhood obesity/overweight has become a huge issue! It’s really sad to see referrals to our nutrition department for counseling for weight loss to improve prediabetes or dyslipidemia in young children. We always try to make sure the parents are directly involved in the nutrition plan. It is definitely obvious that when the parents are on board with the healthy changes, the child has more success. Great post!


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