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Nov 28

Why are children obese?

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” ― Mother Teresa

Yesterday I was all about blaming the parents for the childhood obesity epidemic, my self included. But this wonderful new article tells me that I am wrong. So why are children obese? There is no one thing that causes childhood obesity or adult obesity for that matter. There are many contributing factors to this growing epidemic. Parents please forgive me because we only play a small part when it comes to our children’s weight.

Why are children obese?

why are children obese

In the past mothers rarely worked outside the home.

The statistics on childhood obesity are grim. In 1974, only about 5 percent of American children were obese. Today that number is 16.9 percent. If you include kids who are overweight as well, the number reaches 31 percent. Children who are overweight or obese often have a host of health problems, from type 2 diabetes and asthma to high blood pressure and depression. They are also more likely to be overweight as adults. But the scariest thing of all is that nobody knows what has caused the epidemic or how to reverse the trend.

Daniel Miller, a School of Social Work assistant professor, has spent his career trying to figure that out. There are plenty of places to point the finger: too many video games and television, not enough school recess, ads for sugary cereals that target kids, high-fructose corn syrup, and super-sized fries. But none of these things can be the sole culprit. Complex problems like childhood obesity have no easy cause and no easy solution. “I think that we get into trouble when we try to default into simple explanations about what’s causing a very complicated thing,” says Miller. “It’s a lot of stuff together.”

His first foray into obesity began during his doctoral research on working mothers and how their employment may affect their families’ health. (Fathers’ employment seems to have little effect on child obesity, by the way.) “We know obesity has increased over time. What else has increased over time? Maternal employment,” says Miller. Other studies had suggested that the two trends were connected. He decided to investigate.

Miller is quick to point out that his work is not about blaming working mothers for childhood obesity. “It’s not that working moms say, ‘Okay, now I’ve finished up my work. I’m going to make all these unhealthy choices for my family,’” he says. “It’s just that the way that our society is structured, it doesn’t support the working activities of mothers.”

Miller’s latest work, conducted with Sunny Shin, another SSW assistant professor, moves away from working mothers to focus on another question: whether physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect may lead to childhood obesity. Read more.

I’m glad someone is finally gathering all the data and going over it instead of just pointing a finger and blaming someone or something. Since no one is sure why children are obese, a lot of research and study needs to be done before we can put a plan of action into effect.

In today’s world, more mothers seem to have to work outside the home just to make ends meet. In the past, women stayed at home while the husbands went out to work. As the years passed and prices grew, families saw more women entering the workforce. Since this coincides with the growing childhood obesity epidemic, it only makes sense that there is some connection there.

Abused children linked to obesity seems to merit more study. Sure, on the surface the two look connected, but I think a more in depth study into the minds of abused children need to be done.

At least someone is taking a look at all the evidence and is trying to piece it together to find a solution. Hopefully we will get a more in depth look at why children are obese.