Parental Obesity and New Mentality: Raising the Risk of Child Obesity

Our nation’s most urgent health problem is the disparities in health care. There are stark disparities in health by gender and socioeconomic status. According to Davis et al. (2005), “the social and community environments affect health directly as well as indirectly by influencing behavior”(p. 2168). Which group do we put parents who have a distorted perception of their child’s body size? This phenomenon is most prevalent among low-income women and Hispanic mothers. But regardless of race or socioeconomic background, the obesity epidemic is eroding the general impression of what healthy looks like. What if obese is the new normal? If obese is the new normal, then it will be our failure as Public Health professionals to emphasize the importance of the role of parents and family to combat child obesity. Parents should play a crucial role in influencing children’s food habits and physical activity. Parental obesity may increase the risk of a child becoming obese. Wrotniak et al. (2004) is the first study to examine the incremental effects of parental weight change on child weight change while controlling for variables that influence child weight loss. The study stated that youth benefit the most from parents who lose the most weight in family-based behavioral treatments (Wrotniak et al., 2004, p. 342).

The prevalence of obesity is increasing in all pediatric age groups according to the Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Genetics, environment, metabolism, lifestyle, and eating habits are among the factors believed to play a role in the development of obesity. More than 90% of cases are idiopathic; less than 10% are associated with hormonal or genetic causes. Hirschler et al. (2008) found an association between mothers’ distorted perception of their children’s shape and eating habits and mothers’ obesity and their children’s overweight. The study provides clues for obesity prevention programs. There is a multitude of health problems that are associated with obesity. Without dealing with the new trend of maternally distorted perception of their child’s body size, health problems faced by family care physicians will continue to rise. There will be continued prevalence of obesity associated diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease to hyperlipidemia, asthma, and obstructive sleep apnea. According to Friedman & Schwartz (2008), “A key concept in developing obesity-related policies is creating ‘optimal defaults’17. When there is an optimal default, the health promoting behaviors are those that come most easily, require the least effort or thought, and offer a more healthful option” (p.718).


JAMA Network | JAMA Pediatrics | Parent Weight Change as a … (n.d.). Retrieved from

Hirschler, V., Calcagno M., Clemente A., Aranda C., Gonzalez, C. (2008, July 21). Association between school children’s overweight and maternal obesity and perception of      their children’s weight status. Journal Pediatric Endocrinololgy & Metabolism. 7:641-9.

Cohen, L., Chavez, V., Chehimi, S. (2010). Achieving Health Equity and Social Justice. L. Liburd & W. Giles, Prevention is Primary (pp. 33-53). San Francisco: Jossey-            Bass.

Friedman, R., & Schwartz, M. (2008). Public Policy to Prevent Childhood Obesity, and the Role of Pediatric Endocrinologists.Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology &                    Metabolism, 21, 717-725.

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