Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Obesity Linked to Poor Mother-Toddler Bond

Toddlers Who Have Poor Relationship With Mom May Find Refuge in Food, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 26, 2011 -- Tots who have a poor relationship with their moms are more likely to be obese by the time they turn 15, a new study shows.

So just how does a toddler’s less-than-stellar relationship with mom affect risk for being obese as a teen?

The reasons are not fully understood, but study researchers suggest these toddlers, when coping with stress, may begin to use food as a source of comfort in place of mom at a very early age. The findings appear in the January 2012 issue of Pediatrics.

One thing, however, is clear: Childhood obesity rates in the U.S. are getting higher. As it stands, about 1 in 3 children in the U.S. are overweight or obese and this includes pre-schoolers. This suggests that whatever is causing the uptick starts pretty early.

Relationship With Mom May Play Role in Childhood Obesity

Researchers analyzed close to 1,000 toddlers' emotional bonds with their moms at 15 months, 2, and 3 years of age. They measured mom’s sensitivity during 15-minute videotaped play sessions. Maternal sensitivity refers to a mother’s ability to know what her child is feeling and respond with comfort, consistency, and warmth.

The researchers also looked for signs of “secure attachment” among toddlers. This means that an infant or toddler sees mom as a safe home base.

Toddlers who had moms with low sensitivity to their needs and who overall had the poorest-quality relationship with their moms were twice as likely to be obese at age 15, the results show.

“This study provides evidence that paying attention to the quality of the relationship between parents and children could impact children’s weight status,” says researcher Sarah E. Anderson, PhD. She is an epidemiologist at the Ohio State University College of Public Health in Columbus. The results “underscore the importance of early childhood for obesity prevention.”

Can Proper Parenting Prevent Child Obesity?

It’s possible that some changes in early parenting style may help prevent obesity, says Laurie Miller Brotman, PhD. She is a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry and the director of the Harris Obesity Prevention Effort at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
mother and daughter talking
child brushing his teeth
Sipping hot tea
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
rl with friends
tissue box
Child with adhd