Parental stress linked with childhood obesity

Children may be more likely to become obese if their parents suffer from stress, a new study has suggested. Published in the journal Pediatrics, the research also found youngsters eat fast food more often when their mum or dad perceive themselves to be stressed.

Elizabeth Prout-Parks, a Physician Nutrition Specialist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia - who led the study - noted: "Stress in parents may be an important risk factor for child obesity and related behaviours."

Ms Prout-Parks explained the number of stressors and their severity are significant with regard to this link, with financial strain, leading a single-parent household and poor mental and physical health among the main contributors.

The authors of the report recommended public health campaigns aimed at addressing weight problems among children could be assisted by interventions designed to limit parental stress and educate on coping skills.

It was noted that although previous studies have indicated a connection between parental stress and childhood obesity, this was the first to cover a wide ethnic and socio-economical spectrum.

Dr Rachel Andrew, a Chartered Psychologist, comments:

"This study explores the area of childhood obesity in a wide-ranging, inclusive way by taking into account social, economic, psychological and systemic factors. This type of research is valuable in helping us to stay mindful of the bigger picture, and is more helpful than more reductionistic, over- simplified ideas about childhood obesity."