Parent-child relationships 'can affect obesity levels'

Obesity levels in children can be affected by the relationship youngsters have with their parents, new research has suggested.The study is authored by Sarah Anderson, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Ohio State University and Robert Whitaker, Professor of Public Health and Paediatrics at Temple University.

It was found that toddlers who do not develop a secure emotional relationship with their parents could face an increased risk of obesity by the time they reach four-and-a-half years of age.

The investigation revealed infants at 24 months who display insecure attachment patterns are 30 per cent more likely to gain considerable weight in this time.

It has been published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine and Ms Anderson said: "I hope this work can help to broaden our thinking about the causes of childhood obesity."

Chartered Psychologist Kairen Cullen was part of a Society-wide working group on the psychological aspects of obesity. She said: "Our work also highlighted the importance of parents, family relationships, as well as emotional, physical and environmental aspects."

"The topic is a complex one and psychological aspects need to be emphasised and addressed over time."

"Consultation with children and young people is key to the success of interventions and future research in this area, along with the involvement of parents and carers."

"Improvement in the quality and provision of personal, social, health and economic education is another promising avenue. There would appear to be a greater role for Educational Psychologists to play at individual, group, organisational and societal levels, both in clinical practice and in multiple case study-based research initiatives."

"Finally, I urge an increase in UK-based research that explores psychological causal factors in obesity, the effects of obesity upon quality of life and the identification of protective factors with regards to the psychosocial effects of obesity."

A recent study carried out by Gregory Elliott of Brown University - published in the Journal of Family Issues - found children who believe they 'matter' to their family are less likely to act in a violent manner in their household.