Mother-Toddler Bond Could Affect Obesity Odds Later in Life

With obesity a rising concern across the world, researchers are looking for every way possible for reducing the risk of obesity in the next generation of adults. One recent study even took a look at the bond between mother and toddler to determine if a strong parental bond would help reduce the chances of obesity later in life. What they found was absolutely amazing.

In the study, researchers looked at how mothers interacted with their children at 15, 24 and 36 months old. There were 977 children in total. Researchers followed up with those families when the children turned 15 to check the levels of obesity.

Two aspects of the mother-child relationship were examined during the study; how aware the child is that their mother is a place to go for comfort and security (attachment security) and the mother’s awareness and ability to meet the child’s needs (maternal sensitivity). Relationship quality was scaled on a six-point system. Scores of three or greater were considered poor quality relationships and a score of zero was considered the best possible score.

While gathering the data, researchers started to notice an interesting trend – the worse the parent-child relationship, the higher the child’s chances were for obesity. Specifically, obesity was found to occur in 26.1% of children who scored a three or higher in their parent-child relationships, 15.5% in those with a score of two, 12.1% in those with a score of one and only 13% in those that had a relationship score of zero. Overall, the children who had the worst relationship with their mothers were 2.45 times more likely to experience obesity later in life than the children who had the best relationships with their parents.

While not really certain why this occurs, researchers believe that the parent-child relationship could impact the way the child deals with stress.

“Sensitive parenting increases the likelihood that a child will have a secure pattern of attachment and develop a healthy response to stress,” stated lead author Sarah Anderson of Ohio State University. “A well-regulated stress response could, in turn, influence how well children sleep and whether they eat in response to emotional distress – just two factors that affect the likelihood for obesity.”

But Anderson doesn’t point fingers directly at mothers. Instead, it seems that Anderson understands how difficult the job of motherhood can be, and she feels that better parental support is desperately needed to help mothers develop a better relationship with their children.

“It is possible,” she said, “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.”


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About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.

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