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New Study Looks at Parental Weight and Children’s Development

Posted On: 01-06-2017
New Study Looks at Parental Weight and Children’s Development
According to new information discovered by scientists at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and reported in the January 2017 edition of the Journal of Pediatrics, parents who are overweight may have children who are developmentally delayed. Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of higher than 25.0. This study examined the effects of overweight mothers and fathers on the child's developmental progress.

In the study, the scientists recruited 5,034 participants. Of the recruits, 4,821 of the children qualified for the study. Twins, triplets, and quadruplets were excluded due to low numbers and a lack of comparative data. The children were ages 4 months to 3 years at the time of the study. The scientists were looking for certain behaviors and comparing the behaviors to an overweight or obese parent to find out if there is causation between a mother's or father's weight and the child's developmental delay.

When compared to children of normal or underweight mothers, children with overweight or obese mothers were more likely to have fine motor control and movement problems. These movement problems were especially pronounced with movements of the small muscles of the hands and fingers. Children with overweight or obese fathers had an increase in problems with personal and social activities, such as self-feeding, dressing and playing. When both parents were overweight or obese, children were more likely to fail problem-solving tests.

The children's developmental scores were reported by parents at the ages of 4, 8, 12, 18, 24, 30 and 36 months. The questions were straightforward and objective, and bias is considered to be minimal. Factors such as a mother's education, race, and socio-economic status were controlled in this study.

Scientists suggest that more research is needed to determine the cause of the poorer performance in children with one or both parents who are overweight or obese. They suspect that inflammatory processes caused by obesity may impact fetal development. Obesity is known to contribute to inflammation in a variety of tissues. It also causes more hormones to be released, which could also impact fetal development.

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