New Report Indicates Girls with Single Parents Twice As Likely To Be Obese
Childhood obesity is on the increase in Australia and new findings this week indicate socio-economic conditions, diet and exercise are the three factors that most heavily influence a child’s likelihood of being obese.
Senior biostatistician at Queensland’s QIMR Berghofer medical research institute Professor Peter O’Rourke says research has shown young girls with single parents are more than twice as likely to be obese as girls living in two-parent households, while boys’ obesity is more likely to be linked to takeaway food consumption.
The conclusion was found after gathering information from more than 3500 children to explore the differences between genders and age groups in regards to childhood obesity. The research, published in Public Health, revealed Queensland’s obesity rate in children was 9 per cent, 2 per cent higher than the 2011-2012 national average.
Interestingly, O’Rourke found differing factors that influenced weight between boys and girls.
“For girls, particularly older girls, the main contributing factor was parental social disadvantage. It was manifest by both the education level of parents and single status of parents,” he said. “For boys the dominant factor was excessive use of takeaway foods.”
Here are the KEY FINDINGS as they were presented in Public Health:
Boys aged 5-11
12 per cent were obese
Factors strongly associated with obesity were parents’ level of education, takeaway food consumption and lack of participation in organised sport.
Boys who parents were not university educated were more than twice as likely to be obese.
Boys who ate takeaway food two or more times a week were nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to be obese.
Boys aged 12-17
Seven per cent were obese
Factors strongly associated with obesity were parental education and takeaway food.
Girls aged 5-11
11 per cent were obese
Factors strongly associated with obesity were parent’s level of education and marital status.
Younger girls with single parents were more than twice as likely to be obese as girls living in two-parent households
Girls aged 12 to 17
Four per cent were obese
Factors strongly associated with obesity were parents who were not university educated.
“We do not know why girls from single-parent households are more likely to be obese. More research needs to be done in this area,” he said.
“I could speculate that girls are more sensitised by family issues and boys have more freedom so therefore make more independent choices about takeaway foods.
“Knowing which factors are associated with obesity in boys and girls of different ages is crucial because it will help policy makers to develop effective age- and gender-specific strategies to tackle childhood obesity,” he continued.
We will have to wait and see what the government decides to do with these findings. Whether it spends money on educating parents on healthy eating habits or providing more money to schools to fund sport programs something has to be done. And while we can’t just point the finger at parents, single or not, we must accept some responsibility in that up to a certain age children will only eat what we give them. Until they are old enough to go out and make their own food choices the responsibility of eating a balanced diet falls onto the parents.
Mum Jo Walker, spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald about her own experiences with her four year old son saying she’s already started educating him on the importance of health.
“I think even now we are educating him, you know – we don’t eat that sort of food very often because it’s not good for us, it’s not good for our teeth, it’s not good for our tummies,” she said.
“So just hopefully as he gets older I can explain a little bit more why it’s not good for him. I wouldn’t say the parents are at fault. I understand for single parents or time-poor parents it is hard to bake fresh food all the time and prepare nice healthy meals,” Walker said.
“But I suppose at the end of the day they are the ones doing the shopping and offering the food up; I guess in some ways it does come down to them.”
What do you think of these latest findings?