Researchers analyzed national data detailing relationship characteristics between mothers and their children during their toddler years. The lower the quality of the relationship in terms of the child's emotional security and the mother's sensitivity, the higher the risk that a child would be obese at age 15 years, according to the analysis.
Among those toddlers who had the lowest-quality emotional relationships with their mothers, more than a quarter were obese as teens, compared to 13 percent of adolescents who had closer bonds with their mothers in their younger years.
The findings mirror previous research by these scientists that showed toddlers who did not have a secure emotional relationship with their parents were at increased risk for obesity by age 4 ½. This body of work suggests the areas of the brain that control emotions and stress responses, as well as appetite and energy balance, could be working together to influence the likelihood that a child will be obese.
Rather than blaming parents for childhood obesity, the researchers say these findings suggest that obesity prevention efforts should consider strategies to improve the mother-child bond and not focus exclusively on eating and exercise: "It is possible that childhood obesity could be influenced by interventions that try to improve the emotional bonds between mothers and children rather than focusing only on children's food intake and activity," said Professor Sarah Anderson. "The sensitivity a mother displays in interacting with her child may be influenced by factors she can't necessarily control. Societally, we need to think about how we can support better-quality maternal-child relationships because that could have an impact on child health," she said.
The researchers analyzed data from 977 participants in the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, a project of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The sample in this national study included diverse families living in nine U.S. states whose children were born in 1991.
MEDICA.de; Source: Ohio State University