The parents' own weight status affected how willing they were to make changes in their children's eating habits. "The parents who thought their own weight was a health problem were less likely to make changes in a child's diet," Rhee said.
She can't say why this is, because the survey did not ask. But Rhee suspects that the parents may have been discouraged by their own failed attempts at dieting.
In the study, the average age of the children and teens was about 14, but ranged from 5 to 20.
While income, race or ethnicity didn't have a bearing on whether parents were trying to improve their child's diet, income did play a role in whether parents encouraged exercise. Those who made less than $40,000 a year were less likely to encourage exercise. The survey didn't ask the reasons why.
Dr. William Muinos, director of the weight management program at Miami Children's Hospital, reviewed the findings of the study. "There is a lot of fact to this study that I experience every day [with parents]," he said.
Parents often tell Muinos their children will ''grow out'' of their weight problem, and he tells them that is hazardous thinking. Research has found that children who are obese are likely to be obese as adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Muinos tells parents of overweight children that starting early with a good diet and a regular physical activity is crucial. "Early intervention is key both in establishing good eating habits and exercise," he said.
To learn more about childhood obesity, visit U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Kyung Rhee, M.D., M.Sc., assistant professor of pediatrics, University of California San Diego School of Medicine; William Muinos, M.D., director, weight management program and asso
All rights reserved