When It Comes To Childhood Obesity, Blame Dad, Not Mom


A variety of factors are contributing to the childhood obesity problem, but when we talk about what parents choose to feed their kids, it’s often assumed that mom is the one putting Doritos and Pepsi on the menu. However, new research shows that it’s actually fathers who have the most influence over whether or not their child is overweight.

EurekAlert reports that for a study on how parents’ use of time impacts meal choices, Texas AgriLife Research asked the families (apparently all from heterosexual, two parent households) to record what they ate and whether it was at home or out. They weren’t required to list which restaurants they ate at, but the kids always referred to eateries by name. Dr. Alex McIntosh, an AgriLife Research sociologist, says:

“We had been analyzing the data for a long time when it occurred to us that because the kids had done such a great job in their time diaries that we would actually be able to distinguish between a meal at a fast-food restaurant versus a meal at a full-service restaurant … And somewhat to our surprise, it was father’s time spent at fast-food restaurants – not mother’s time spent there – that was associated with kids’ time spent in a fast-food place.”

McIntosh suggests that this may be because dads are more likely to let kids pick a restaurant or select their own snacks in a grocery store, while moms will inform kids that they are not eating McFlurries for dinner. “So basically all you really need is a dad who says, ‘no, I think we ought to eat someplace else and this is why,'” says McIntosh. “It’s about a father taking more of a responsible role when he’s parenting.”

He adds,

“Traditionally academics have blamed mothers for everything that goes wrong with children, especially when it comes to food. But I think it’s pretty clear that fathers have a substantial influence over what children are eating. And if that’s the case, then they need to be the target of education just like mothers.”

This finding is a little confusing, since commercials usually show moms feeding kids (and utilizing a variety of household cleaners) while dads ogle electronics. Perhaps these ads need updating. Now where just waiting for the day when we’ll see two dads debating the merits of high-fructose corn syrup on a commercial that airs during Monday Night Football.

Children Eschew The Fat If Dads Aren’t Lenient [EurekAlert]

Image via AVAVA/Shutterstock.

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