Thursday, September 07, 2006

Parenting

A recent study conducted by Boston University’s School of Medicine, and appearing in the June issue of Pediatrics, revealed that children of authoritarian (strict disciplinarian) parents are five times more likely to be overweight by the first grade than those reared by more authoritative (democratic) parents. True, children of overly permissive and/or neglectful parents were even more likely to be overweight, but the question remains—why would kids raised by overly strict parents tend to be more overweight than those exposed to more flexible parenting?

The study’s lead author, Dr. Kyung Rhee, provides some clarity, suggesting that authoritarian parents may inhibit children from developing their self-regulatory abilities. Children instructed to eat brussel sprouts, for instance, instead of vegetables more palatable to them, lose their sense of autonomy and personal choice, which may, in turn, affect their abilities to “listen to their bodies about how full they are,” Rhee says.

Another factor, I’d add, is that children of excessively strict parents may soothe themselves with food in an effort to comfort themselves following (or preceding) frequent disciplining. Moreover, in a system where rigidity is key, children may rebel by overeating, sneaking food as an effort toward self-expression and/or separation from the family.

5 comments:

littlem said...

"The study’s lead author, Dr. Kyung Rhee, provides some clarity, suggesting that authoritarian parents may inhibit children from developing their self-regulatory abilities."

Yes.

"Another factor, I’d add, is that children of excessively strict parents may soothe themselves with food in an effort to comfort themselves following (or preceding) frequent disciplining."

Yes.

"Moreover, in a system where rigidity is key, children may rebel by overeating, sneaking food as an effort toward self-expression and/or separation from the family."

Um, yes.

And a lot of us don't realize what the h*** happened until about 20 years later.

Stacy said...

My struggle with food is different in that, as a child, my mom rewarded me daily with junk food. She even gave me marshmallow cookies in the car ride after I had two teeth pulled when I was 7.

She did get strict with food when I got older (and fatter). She would call me names if I took second helpings or reached for junk food in the cupboard. That just made me feel ashamed and want food more. Food was (and still is sometimes) my means of comfort.

drstaceyny said...

lm--true, true.

stacy--I think a number of people could relate to your experiences: food as reward, mixed messages abt food/weight from parents, food as rebellion, comfort, etc.

Haley-O said...

When parents try to control their children too much, they stymie their children's sense of self-control--and ultimately, their children's sense of identity. This lack of self-control and, ultimately, -respect manifests in overindulgence--probably not only eating but drugs, alcohol, etc. Very sad. Good to know, of course!

sabrinakitty said...

I was so mad that this study came out 20 years too late for me!! My parents took strictness to the extreme-my biological family was/is obese and my adoptive parents believed I had a carb addiction (really, I just wanted to eat like every other American kid). So they monitored every bite that I ate even when I wasn't around them. I wasn't allowed sweets or breads except on special occasions, and I was weighed daily with dire consequences if I gained. So guess what? Now, I've gained 75 lbs and can't seem to lose it no matter how much I exercise or eat right. Not to mention that I find it impossible to turn down sweets. Thanks mom and dad...