Academic journal article Fathering

Paternal Influences on Children's Weight Gain: A Systematic Review

Academic journal article Fathering

Paternal Influences on Children's Weight Gain: A Systematic Review

Article excerpt

Childhood overweight and obesity rates have continued to rise globally, reaching epidemic proportions. Children's dietary patterns evolve within the context of the family and there are a number of pathways through which parents may shape children's dietary practices, including parent nutritional knowledge the types of foods that are made available to children, parental modeling of particular eating behaviors, and parent child-feeding practices. Most research examining these predictors has been undertaken with mothers as the primar3, caregivers, while fathers have received markedly less attention. This paper is a review of the literature on paternal influences on preschool children's weight gain, overweight and obesity. The results of this review indicate that fathers do influence preschool children's weight gain, overweight and obesity status. However, methodological limitations in the existing studies make direct and meaningful comparisons across studies difficult. The review further highlights the fact that fathers have been neglected in childhood obesity research.

Keywords: children; obesity; fathers; paternal influences

Rates of childhood overweight and obesity continued to rise globally, with recent research indicating rates have reached epidemic proportions (Lobstein, Baur, & Uauy, 2004; Wang & Lobstein, 2006). The health risks associated with obesity in conjunction with the challenges of weight loss maintenance has reoriented the health industry's focus of this epidemic from treatment to prevention (Jelalian & Saelens, 1999). It has been proposed that obesity prevention programs need to focus on childhood, as it is during this developmental life-stage that our eating habits are formed (Birch & Fisher, 1998; Birch & Ventura, 2009).

The importance of targeting intervention and prevention strategies for this population is reinforced by research that indicates obesity in childhood and adolescence is predictive of overweight in adulthood (Guo, Roche, Chumlea, Gardner, & Siervogel, 1994; Whitaker, Wright, Pepe, Seidel, & Dietz, 1997), with estimates ranging from 20% at 4 years of age, up to 80% at adolescence (Guo & Chumlea, 1999; Serdula et al., 1993). Prevention programs that are directed towards young children can best be developed and successfully implemented through knowledge of the specific factors that contribute to children's weight gain.

The development of childhood overweight involves a complex set of factors from multiple contexts that interact to place a child at risk. Davison and Birch (200la) developed a model of the predictors of childhood overweight and obesity based on the Ecological Systems Theory (EST) which conceptualizes human development from ah interactive contextual perspective. EST highlights the importance of considering the context in which a person is located in order to understand the emergence of a particular characteristic (Bronfenbrenner, 1986). Davison and Birch's ecological model of the etiology of childhood overweight places child weight status at the centre point, with three layers surrounding it. The first layer comprises individual child risk factors; the second layer includes parenting styles and family characteristics; and the third and final layer includes community, demographic and larger societal and environmental characteristics. According to this model, children's dietary patterns are central in the development of overweight given that excess caloric intake, relative to energy expenditure, will result in the storage of energy as fat, which will eventually lead to excessive levels of body fat; in turn, children's dietary patterns evolve within the context of the family (Davison & Birch, 2001a). The current literature review purposely focuses on these second layer factors, as there are a number of pathways through which parents may shape children's dietary practices, including parent nutritional knowledge, the types of foods that are made available to children, parental modeling of particular eating behaviors, and parent child-feeding practices (Davison & Birch, 200la). …

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