Are Parents To Blame For Childhood Obesity?

1506 words - 6 pages

Childhood obesity is an epidemic in the United States. One out of five children in the U.S. are obese. In fact, “Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese ("Obesity rates among," 2011). The childhood obesity rates have steadily risen since 1980 and many children are now suffering from what were once thought of as adult illnesses, such as elevated cholesterol levels, hypertension, arthritis, and diabetes. Several internal and external factors contribute to childhood obesity; however, many people believe that parents are primarily to blame for obese children and adolescents. On the other hand, medical professionals and sociologists have studied the consistent decline in physical activity and external societal influences that help to contribute to childhood obesity.
Childhood obesity is comprised of several internal components. It is commonly believed that obesity is caused by a gene produced during the perinatal stage of human development that increases the likelihood of weight gain in children. The perinatal phase of development occurs, “from the twentieth week of gestation to the twenty-eighth day of newborn life” ("Perinatal,"). In fact, “predisposition to obesity seems to be caused by a complex interaction between at least 250 obesity-associated genes and, perhaps, perinatal factors” (Ebbeling, Pawlak & Ludwig, 2002). In addition to genetic factors for obesity, children who are bottle fed have a higher tendency to be overweight or obese than their counterparts who are breastfed. “The explanation for this finding could relate to permanent physiological changes caused by some intrinsic factor unique to human milk or to psychological factors, such as locus of control over feeding rate (baby versus parent) or taste preference” (Ebbeling, Pawlak & Ludwig, 2002). In short, there is no scientific reason why breastfed children tend to maintain healthy weight levels; however, there is often a normal weight correlation between the practice and children. Therefore, genetics and early life patterns, such as breastfeeding, help to frame children’s metabolic states and future weight issues.
While parents are not in complete control of all contributing factors of childhood obesity, they do share some of the load. One article states, “The problem of poor eating habits in children can be attributed to what they are given to eat by their parents. Parents have traditionally maintained primary responsibility for providing food and introducing children to an array of food choices” (Sealy, PhDMPH & Farmer PhD, 2011). Home eating patterns are set early on and children learn how and what to eat from their parents. Proper nutritional food selection is established early in childhood and, “Children choose to eat foods that are served most often and prefer what has been available and acceptable in the parental household” (Golan, Ph.D & Crow, M.D., 2004). Parents usually feed their children the same items they consume,...

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