A new study, completed by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and published in the scientific journal of Pediatrics, has confirmed that parental obesity negatively affects children’s development; and it isn’t just the mother’s obesity that can potentially cause problems. 

According to the results of the study, children of obese mothers had trouble with their fine motor skill development.

Children of obese fathers had trouble with social interaction; and children who had two obese parents faced problem solving issues.

The conclusion was reached with data from a study that involved 5,034 mothers from New York state (excluding New York City).

Mothers completed Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ), which helps assess a child’s skills in a wide range of areas.

This was repeated when their child was 4, 8, 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months of age.

In addition to data about the child, mothers were asked to complete questions about their own lifestyle, as well as that of the father.

Both parents were asked to reveal their height and weight, which would be calculated by the staff to correlate obesity with developmental issues.

Previously, studies on obesity and childhood development focused only on maternal obesity.

This is one of the first to focus on the weight and lifestyles of both parents as developmental factors.

According to the data, children of obese mothers were 70% more likely to fail the fine motor skills indicator on the Ages and Stages Questionnaire.

Children of obese fathers were found to be 75% more likely to fail the ASQ that refers to social interaction and predicts how well children will be able to relate to one another by age 3.

Researchers are presently unsure why parental obesity affects children in a negative way.

They theorize that for mothers, obesity causes brain inflammation that may affect the development of the child’s brain.

For obese men, the expression of sperm may be affected, causing social delays in children.

At present, 1 in 5 women are obese before they are pregnant.

Researchers who participated in this study are calling for further studies to confirm their findings.

Hopefully, this will enable doctors to screen children of obese parents for developmental delays and begin early intervention.


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