Today, one out of five American children is obese. Young children who are overweight are five times more likely than their peers of normal weight to be obese by adolescence. Obese children and adolescents, especially low-income and minority youth, are at increased risk for a range of medical, social and academic problems.
The new study led by Doctor Laurie Miller Brotman of the Centre for Early Childhood Health and Development at the NYU investigated whether early family intervention that was effective for parents of children with behaviour problems, resulted in lower rates of obesity.
This innovative study took advantage of two long-term follow up studies of high-risk children who had participated in evaluations of either ParentCorps or another effective parenting intervention, the "Incredible Years," during early childhood. The study involved 186 children from low-income, minority families at high risk for obesity who were randomly assigned to family intervention or a control group when the children were approximately four years old. Behavioural family intervention in early childhood included a series of weekly 2-hour parent and child groups over a 6-month period. The interventions did not address nutrition, activity, or weight.
"Children who enter school with behaviour problems are at very high risk for academic underachievement and school dropout, antisocial behaviour, delinquency, obesity and other health problems. ParentCorps engages parents of high-risk children, reduces harsh and ineffective parenting and prevents early behaviour problems from escalating into more serious and intractable problems," said Brotman.
For more than a decade, Brotman and her colleagues have developed and evaluated programs for parents and young children living in urban poverty. ParentCorps, a culturally-informed family program for young children, helps parents to be more responsive and nurturing as well as more effective in their approach to discipline. ParentCorps graduates are more attentive and attuned to their children, spend more time playing and reading with their children and praise positive behaviours such as sharing with peers.
In both follow-up studies, children who were assigned to the intervention and children in the control condition were evaluated from three to five years later. The evaluation of children as they approached adolescence included examination of body mass index, sedentary activity and physical activity. In one of the studies, blood pressure and nutritional intake were also measured. Children who received family intervention during early childhood had significantly lower rates of obesity compared to children in the control group. In the larger study, without intervention, more than half of the children with early behaviour problems were obese by second grade. In contrast, among children with behaviour problems who received ParentCorps in early childhood, only 24 per cent were obese.
MEDICA.de; Source: New York University - Langone Medical Centre