While some may believe that the way in which parents feed their children can have a huge impact on their chances of gaining weight, scientists at King’s College London and University College London have claimed that this may not necessarily be the case.
Rather, the way in which parents feed their young ones is likely to depend on their children’s natural weight, the researchers explain.
In a study published in journal PLOS Genetics, the team explored the correlation between a child’s “genetic predisposition towards a higher or lower weight” and their parent’s feeding techniques.
The researchers used data from the Twins Early Development Study from 1994 to 1996, which includes around 4,500 pairs of twins born in England and Wales, and answers collated from a Child Feeding Questionnaire.
They then calculated whether a child had a genetic predisposition for a higher or lower weight, and compared it to the parents’ feeding styles.
“We found that parents whose children were genetically predisposed to have a lower weight were more pressuring of them to eat, and those parents whose children were genetically predisposed to have a higher weight were more restrictive over how much and what they were allowed to eat,” explains lead author Saskia Selzam, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London.
“Our findings suggest that parents develop their feeding practices in response to their child’s natural tendency towards a higher or lower weight.
This suggests that parents adapt their feeding techniques depending on the weight of their children, as opposed to the other way around.
“The way a parent feeds their child may also influence their child’s weight to some extent, but our results challenge the prevailing view that parental behaviour is the major influence on childhood obesity.”
"These results show that parents are not the 'full story' when it comes to a child's weight, and blaming parents for being too controlling about feeding may be unfair," says senior author Dr Clare Llewellyn from University College London.
Earlier this year, a weight loss expert was criticised online for claiming that “fat parents” are to blame for the childhood obesity epidemic.
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