If you think that your child is overweight, chances are that he or she may gain more weight as they grow up.
According to a new study, parents’ perception of their children as overweight could have unintended negative consequences on their children’s health.
Children whose parents identify them as being overweight perceived their own body size more negatively and were more likely to attempt to lose weight — factors that partly accounted for their weight gain, the researchers said.
“When a parent identifies a child as being overweight, that child is at increased risk of future weight gain,” Eric Robinson, psychology researcher at University of Liverpool in Britain.
The findings showed that parents’ perceptions were associated with children’s weight gain 10 years later. Children whose parents considered them to be overweight at age four or five tended to gain more weight by age 14 or 15.
The results were the same for boys and girls and they could not be explained by other possible factors, such as household income, presence of a medical condition, and parents’ weight.
“The study argues that the stigma attached to being an overweight child may explain why children whose parents view them as being overweight tend to have elevated weight gain during development,” added another researcher Angelina Sutin from Florida State University, in the US.
For the study, the team examined data from 2,823 Australian families as well as from 5,886 Irish families, where the parents were asked if they viewed their children as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or very overweight.
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.