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New insight on relationship between parents, preschoolers and obesity
Date:2/8/2013

PULLMAN, Wash. - While sugary drinks, lack of exercise and genetics contribute to a growing number of overweight American children, new research from Washington State University reveals how a mom's eating habits and behavior at the dinner table can influence her preschooler's obesity risk.

The findings come from WSU alumna Halley Morrison's undergraduate honors thesis, which recently was published in the journal Appetite.

As a biology major and student fitness instructor, Morrison knew she wanted to focus on health and the human body. She learned about the childhood obesity and prevention research of Tom Power, chair of the WSU Department of Human Development.

Together, they analyzed surveys of 222 low-income African-American and Latino Head Start preschoolers and caregivers in a U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service Children's Nutrition Research Center study.

"The problem is no longer food scarcity, but too much food," Morrison said. "It doesn't cost families extra to change their behavior."

Morrison found that moms who eat when they are already full and also show a high level of control when feeding their kids - for example, by pushing children to finish what's on their plate or withholding food until the next meal - tend to produce picky eaters. Meanwhile, moms who eat in response to their emotions or who are easily tempted by the sight, scent or taste of food had children with a strong desire to eat.

"Like mother, like child," Morrison said. "This is especially true when kids are so young their environment is primarily based on what their parents are doing."

Nearly 17 percent of U.S. children between ages 2 and 19 are obese. While past research has focused mainly on middle-class European-American families, Morrison said the demographic focus on low-income families made this particular study unique. Obesity rates among preschoolers are highest in African-American a
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Contact: Halley Morrison
halley.morrison@email.wsu.edu
406-868-3260
Washington State University
Source:Eurekalert

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