No Car for You, Son; Your Mother and I Think You're Too Fat

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Are overweight kids discriminated against by their own parents? Credit: Corbis

No car for you, fat boy!

Parents are less likely to get cars for tubby teens, according to a study from the University of North Texas.

You get fed a lot of news about childhood obesity these days, and you may have thought you finally reached the center of the Tootsie Pop when researchers linked the common cold to the uncommonly corpulent.

Keep licking.

Reuters news service reports Amanda Kraha and Adriel Boals at the University of North Texas got to wondering how much a kid's pant size weighs in on his parent's decision to get him a car.

Turns out, quite a bit.

Researchers looked at 379 college students ages 17 to 26, ranging in size from bean poles to the overweight, to those who qualify for their own zip codes.

Kraha and Boals studied the data and found kids who bought their own cars had a higher average body mass index than people who got a car from Mom and Dad. Among the 82 students who bought their cars themselves (roughly 20 percent of the group), 39 percent were horizontally challenged -- compared to about 18 percent of the 297 students who got help from their folks.

"No one is going to be surprised that society discriminates against the overweight, but I think it is surprising that it can come from your parents," Boals tells Reuters.

The reasons parents don't want to buy cars for their obese children might be rooted in evolution, Boals tells Reuters.

"Parents may be less likely to invest resources in offspring they believe are unfit," he says.

Or, it could just be that, like so many people, parents are subconsciously bigoted against fat people.

"I don't think the parents are doing this knowingly," he tells Reuters. "The study is well executed and it is convincing: College students who were overweight were less likely to have family support for an automobile purchase, regardless of the family's financial status or whether they were male or female."

Donna Ryan, an obesity expert and professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., applauds the study.

"Overweight and obese people face many hurdles from childhood and up," she tells Reuters. "They are less likely to marry, earn less educational attainment and are more likely to earn lower salaries than their normal weight counterparts. This is yet one more example of the discrimination they suffer."

Related: Lack of Sleep in Babies a Cause of Childhood Obesity, Study Finds

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.