The mother-child relationship has always carried a lot of weight. Now researchers say some obese teens might be in essence, carrying the weight of their relationship with their mothers when they were younger.
A new study published in this week’s edition of Pediatrics finds the type of relationship a mother has with her young child could affect that little one’s chances of becoming obese as a teen.
Researchers looked at data of 977 children from around the United States, which documents relationship characteristics between mothers and their toddlers. The less of an emotional bond a mother had with her child, the higher the risk that the child would become obese by the age of 15.
When analyzing the data, investigators found 241 children or more than one-quarter of all toddlers who had poor emotional relationships with their mothers were obese as teens, compared to adolescents who were close to their moms at 13 percent.
The researchers at Ohio State University found that this new study actually supports previous research by the group, which shows toddlers who did not have a secure emotional relationship with their parents had an increased risk of becoming obese by the age of 4½. Knowing both of these points, researchers say both studies suggest the areas of the brain that control emotions and stress, along with appetite and energy balance, could be working together to influence the likelihood that a child will be obese.
Investigators did say instead of just blaming the mother for her child’s obesity, efforts should be made to improve strategies to improve mother-child relationships earlier in a youngster’s life, and not just focus on the child’s eating habits or 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 Sarah Anderson, assistant professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.
Anderson also says, "the sensitivity a mother displays in interacting with her child may be influenced by factors she can’t necessarily control. Society-wise, we need to think about how we can support better-quality maternal-child relationships because that could have an impact on child health."