Rigid Parenting Style Linked to Obese Kids
Demanding, inflexible approach might foster negative response, study suggests
The analysis also included two other parenting styles: permissive, defined as responsive but not demanding, and negligent, defined as not demanding and not responsive. Overall, parents in both age groups of children were primarily found to be authoritative.
Dr. Stephen Daniels, pediatrician-in-chief and chairman of pediatrics at Children's Hospital Colorado, said pediatricians and other clinicians have long been curious about the impact of different parenting styles on children's obesity risk and health behaviors.
"What this study does is pin down some specific styles of parenting that seem to have the biggest influence," said Daniels, who wasn't involved in the research. "That's the part that's new and interesting and useful."
Kakinami and Daniels agreed that the study wasn't able to directly identify the reason children with authoritarian parents appeared so much more likely to become obese, but they said many theories make sense.
"It appears that parents who are more engaged in discussing eating and physical activity behaviors with children -- where the child has the ability to participate in making decisions for the family as well as themselves -- seems to be the style that has the best impact," said Daniels, who also is professor and chairman of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
The higher obesity risk among kids with authoritarian parents "may in part be kids responding negatively to not being able to question things or discuss things," he added.
Kakinami said future research on the topic is needed and should look at the long-term impact of parenting styles on children's weight.
"This study looked at only one point in time, not over the course of childhood," she said.
Data and conclusions presented at meetings typically are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.