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Being an Only-Child Increases Chances of Being Overweight by 25 Percent

Children who grow up without brothers and sisters are more likely to be overweight amid fears they are being “over indulged” by parents.

Research published today found lone children were 25 per cent more likely to suffer weight problems at the age of seven than classmates with one sibling.

The study suggested youngsters may be less active because of a lack of brothers and sisters in the home.

Researchers also suggested the differences may be down to over-protective families and only children being fed too much by “indulgent parents”.

The disclosure is made as part of a major analysis of more than 11,000 children born in the first two years of the millennium.

The study – led by the Institute of Education, which is part of the University of London – showed a direct link between parental behaviour and children’s weight.

Children with parents who smoked or suffered weight problems themselves were much more likely to be obese, it was disclosed.

“The importance of parents’, and especially mothers’ BMI, suggests that overweight is a family problem, and health messages need to be targeted at mothers in particular,” said the report.

“Childhood overweight appears to be primarily due to an obesogenic home environment rather than individual child level factors.”

Researchers are tracking children’s health, behaviour, education and cognitive development as part of the on-going Millennium Cohort Study, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

A major analysis of the data – published today – charts changes in children’s weight over the first seven years of their life.

It found that children who were overweight at the age of five were 25 times more likely to have weight problems at seven than other children.

Researchers suggested that “puppy fat” among infants “should not be ignored and early intervention is crucial” to stop weight problems escalating.

It also said that girls were more likely to be overweight than boys. Almost one in four girls was too heavy at this age compared with just over one in six boys, according to the study.

Children without brothers and sisters were also heavier than those with siblings.

Seven-year-olds who were lone children were 25 per cent more likely to be overweight than those with one sibling and 30 per cent more likely to be overweight than those with two.

Dr Alice Sullivan, the report’s principal author, said: “Girls and only children are also more likely to become overweight between the ages of five and seven.

“It is not clear whether the increased risk for girls is due to them being overfed compared to boys, or because they are involved in less physical activity – perhaps due to the over-protectiveness of parents – or some combination of the two.

“Similarly we do not know whether only children are less active due to lack of siblings, or overfed by indulgent parents. Either way, making parents aware of the increased risk to girls and only children may help to modify their behaviour.”

Reference Sources 172
December 7, 2010


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