Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Childhood obesity linked to family dysfunction

A nutritional investigation led by Monash SPHPM’s Associate Professor Andre Renzaho, Research Fellow Sheila Cyril and Atemthi Dau has examined the association between family functioning and unhealthy food and beverage consumption amongst children twelve years and under.

The study’s focus on family environment and parenting was based on the premise that such an environment mediates children’s eating behaviours in terms of availability and accessibility, how food is offered and shared, and transmission of eating habits, attitudes and preferences.

It found that compared with children living in high socioeconomic households, children from socioeconomically disadvantaged homes were more likely to consume potato crisps and potato chips on a weekly basis, ingest takeaway foods on a monthly basis, and drink sweet beverages daily. Across all analyses poorly functioning families had children who consumed unhealthy foods and beverages with greater frequency and quantity than children from well-functioning families.

As part of the Victorian Child Health and Wellbeing study, the research recognized that the consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages, especially takeaway foods, is becoming more prevalent worldwide, and that this increase represents a public health concern. The authors expressed that many societal and family factors could explain the rise in consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages, and that family functioning, including activities essential to the survival of the family, could influence the amount of unhealthy foods and drinks that are consumed in a household by children.

Findings from the study suggest that family-based obesity prevention interventions need to include consideration of the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects that affect family life, namely their ability to problem solve, achieve consensus in decision making, communicate effectively, and accept individuals within the household. The authors conclude that targeting more general aspects of family and caregiver functioning will improve dietary intake.

Read the full article here.

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