Family environment is a significant predictor of adolescent obesity

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Parents have a strong influence over whether or not their children will become overweight or obese, and it's not just their genes that they pass on.

Most significantly, when children grow up in families with bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyles dominated by television watching and video games, they are 33.3 percent more likely to become overweight or obese as young adults.

Bad eating habits include no parental control over diet and skipping breakfast.

These findings are among others revealed by a new Arizona State University study on the influence of family environment on adolescent risk for obesity. The study was presented Aug. 14 at the American Sociological Association annual meeting in Philadelphia, Penn.

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for weight control," says author Ashley Fenzl Crossman, graduate teaching assistant in ASU's Department of Sociology. "And the amount of time spent in sedentary activities is a strong predictor of weight gain. No surprise."

However, a key finding from the study is that kids don't need to engage in high levels of physical activity to prevent obesity. Instead, adolescents who have less time to engage in sedentary activities because they are involved in other things -- including non-athletic activities such as school clubs, marching band, part-time jobs, volunteer work, church activities or household chores -- are less likely to become overweight.

Crossman utilized data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a school-based tool designed to assess the health of adolescents in grades 7 through 12. The study population includes a representative sample of all public and private schools in the United States.

Approximately 6,400 children where selected from two waves of the study that took place six years apart, in 1995 and again in 2001-2002.

In addition to poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, Cr

Contact: Sharon Keeler
Arizona State University

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