Children Chubbier When Watched by Grandparents, Study Shows

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers

Grandparents feeding grandkids too much food

Should grandparents be more careful about their grandkids' diets? Credit: Getty Images


Young children are more likely to be overweight if they are cared for by their grandparents, a British study concludes.

The BBC reports that researchers from University College London analyzed 12,000 children born between 2000 and 2001. The 3-year-olds studied were 34 percent more likely to be overweight if their grandparents cared for them full time.

Children who went to day care centers or other child care providers had no increased risk of weight problems. The results of the study were reported in the International Journal of Obesity.

Researchers also looked at children's socio-economic backgrounds. The heavier children generally came from more affluent families -- with parents who had managerial or professional jobs.


There's the rub. A lot of factors need to be taken into account when looking at the study, says Amy Goyer of the AARP.

For instance, Goyer says, the socio-economic information is important. Parents in managerial positions tend to work longer hours.

"Are they spending the balance time with their children, playing and doing physical activities?" she asks.

Lead researcher Catherine Law tells the BBC the study did not look at specific reasons why children watched by their grandparents are more apt to be overweight.

Law, a professor of public health and epidemiology at University College London, tells the network she nonetheless suspects indulgence of children and lack of physical exercise are among the possible factors.

"Some of the things that might help would be educating the population in general about healthy lifestyles, but also things like avoiding food as a reward and suggestions for building activities into daily life," she tells the BBC.

It might be a bit unfair to point fingers at grandparents, Goyer tells ParentDish. Still, adds the family expert, some grandparents grew up in generations that were told to clean their plates or were offered sweets as rewards for good behavior.

"Maybe some grandparents need to be educated about the role food plays in children's lives," she says.

The problem is not that grandparents are sedentary senior citizens. The average age of a first-time grandparent in the United States is 48, Goyer says. Grandparents of 3-year-olds are likely in their early 50s.

"So if anyone's looking at this and thinking this is old granny in her rocking chair, that's not it," she says.

The important thing to remember, Goyer tells ParentDish, is that grandparents are excellent care providers.

"Grandparents are still the preferred caregivers for parents when the're at work," she says.

Related: Choosing Child Care

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