Insecure Toddlers More Likely To Become Obese

Bonding with your toddler may help prevent obesity.

The importance of a mother/child bond nearly goes without saying. And, as if you needed an excuse to be close to your child, new research finds insecure toddlers may have a greater risk of being obese before they even start kindergarten.

Researchers studied data from 6,650 American children born in 2001 who were evaluated at age 2 and 4. Hours were spent watching the 24-month-olds interact at home with their mothers. They wanted to find out if upset children could be comforted through contact with their mothers (duh) and if the children sought hugs and physical touch from their mothers.

Here were the results, as reported by TIME:

The children who scored the lowest at 24 months were deemed “insecurely attached;” when researchers calculated their body-mass index, they found the insecurely attached children were 30% more likely to be obese by age 4 ½, according to the study, which was published recently in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Researchers tried to look for other links to the childrens’ weight but nothing else could account for the significant link between emotional security and weight.

In fact, when considering only each child’s attachment security score and future weight, the study found that the emotionally insecure toddlers had an almost 50% greater chance of being obese at age 4. Of the toddlers judged to be insecurely attached, 23% were obese at compared to 16.6% of securely attached children.

As Strollerderby has reported, studies have shown that nearly one-third of American children are overweight and a majority of adults say they believe that “childhood obesity is a “significant and growing challenge for the country.” One cause of that could be because toddlers without close maternal bonds are stressed and begin to emotional eat, just like adults.

“The same areas of the brain regulate stress response and appetite control, so if a child is stressed because he’s not being attended to, it’s more likely he will be obese later on and will also use food as a way to respond to stress,” says Sarah Anderson, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University and the study’s lead author. “I can say from my reading of the obesity research literature and child development literature that there are a lot of good reasons why it’s important for parents to consider how they can help their children to develop good capacities for emotional regulation,” says Anderson. “I can feel very comfortable saying that this is not harmful. And if it prevents obesity, so much the better.”

I guess what the study means is that children can be emotional eaters starting from the age of two.  I personally find this fascinating as I can’t get my toddler to eat much more than small amounts of mac & cheese and chicken nuggets.  But perhaps that means she’s well-adjusted and emotionally attached to me?

What about you? Have you witnessed a toddler emotionally eat large amounts of food?

Parental Preference: Dealing with Toddlers When They Prefer One Parent

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