Pediatric research conducted under the auspices of the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) made new findings about child development problems when both parents are obese. Research was conducted by scientists at the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Do obese parents weight hinder child development?
Obesity is defined as beyond overweight, considered unhealthful weight and size. According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), obesity is measured by weight ranges and the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale. Based on BMI, more than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are considered to be obese. More than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) have extreme obesity. According to NIH results, investigators found that children of obese mothers were more likely to fail tests of fine motor skill — the ability to control movement of small muscles, such as those in the fingers and hands. Children of obese fathers were more likely to fail measures of social competence, and those born to extremely obese couples also were more likely to fail tests of problem solving ability.
The study appeared in January 2017 Pediatric Journal as “Parental Obesity and Early Childhood Development”. The study seems to set out to prove that obese parents weight hinder child development.
Approximately 5000 mothers participated the upstate New York study (2008-2010). The study recruited mothers from New York State (excluding New York City) at ∼4 months postpartum. Parents completed the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) when their children were 4, 8, 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months of age corrected for gestation. The ASQ used included questions to screen for delays in 5 developmental domains (ie, fine motor, gross motor, communication, personal-social functioning, and problem-solving ability).
The findings of this study suggest that maternal and paternal obesity are each associated with specific delays in early childhood development, emphasizing the importance of family information when screening child development.
One of the problems of interpreting data from ASQ’s, especially from a previous study, is an academic exercise. While findings appear in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the correlation of obese parents and ASQ reported developmental issues of children aged up to 3 years, might be somewhat questionable. The original Upstate Kids study was studying how infertility treatments, such as ovulation-stimulating medications and various assisted reproductive technologies.
The study did not focus on socioeconomic factors among the sampled group. as New York State has many depressed areas. Within the study results, indications displayed maternal obesity was associated with lower socioeconomic status and higher paternal BMI. It was also related to greater likelihood of smoking, being diagnosed with gestational diabetes or hypertension, and lower likelihood of alcohol intake, multivitamin use, and fish oil supplementation during pregnancy.
This study was the first examination of maternal and paternal obesity in the USA, culled from regional ASQ data at about 6 years old. What we have here are several factors that may be inferred as to confounding variables. Is there actually a direct link between obese parents and childhood development? Can one easily infer that obesity was the only cause?
Smoking, diabetes, alcohol intake, poor medical guidance, and other variables of behavior may also result in childhood development disorders. As with many published studies that are reported by the media, this study leaves room for doubt of direct inference of causality.
Statistical studies based on correlations based on questionnaires are excellent for making analyses of data fit a hypothesis. Validity is somewhat questionable. More and more direct experimentation is advised.
The question of whether obese parents weight hinder child development needs more study. From this article published in Pediatrics Journal, there is little credence that parental obesity may result in child development problems. If your toddler does exhibit child development issues, have your pediatrician deeply study possible reasons.