Pressuring Children To Eat May Increase Risk Of Obesity

New research in September’s issue of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics suggests that if parents join an education program that shows them how to take the pressure off their kids to eat, a child’s risk of obesity may become reduced.

To take pressure off of children to eat certain foods, parents should receive education based on “division of responsibility” (DOR) for eating, according to the research team’s leader Dr. W. Stewart Agras of Stanford University. Their findings support the theory that DOR education can improve the healthy development of appetite and eating behaviors in young children.

The research: 62 families with a toddler (aged 2 to 4) who had a high chance of obesity, with at least one obese or overweight parent were tested. DOR as a concept was taught to one group of parents, which took a child-development approach to “parent/child feeding interactions,” explained Dr. Agras. “At the family level parent feeding practices, such as taking control over their child’s eating, appear to contribute to childhood overweight.”

Parents provided and served the food, while the child chose how much they ate, if they chose to eat at all. “The primary principle is that crossing parent or child boundaries leads to feeding problems,” said the authors.

The other group was taught a program that seeks to promote healthy eating and increase physical activity.


The results: Parents in the DOR group put less pressure on their children to eat than those in the second group. Moreover, a decrease might have been seen in positive feeding practices because of this approach that teaches parents to promote the eating of healthy foods, notes Medical News Today.

Children who have a high risk of obesity usually have parents who are overweight or obese themselves, leading some researchers to believe that these families encourage poor eating habits. Interestingly, this study shows that even parents overly involved in their children’s diet habits in a seemingly positive way could be contributing to obesity risk in their children, because they are harming their child’s perceptions regarding hunger and feeling satisfied.

Dr Agras and his team concluded, “Efforts to increase consumption of healthy foods in toddlers should include counseling parents to model eating such foods and not to pressure children to eat them.”