Little disparity between behaviors in families with healthy, obese children

CHICAGO SymphonyIRI Group and the Food Marketing Institute on Tuesday released research finding the behaviors of families with one or more overweight/obese children differ little from those with all healthy-weight children.


“Many myths and misperceptions continue to exist about childhood obesity,” stated Thom Blischok, global president of innovation and strategy at SymphonyIRI. “This new research is the first of a series designed to probe into the attitudes, behaviors and rituals within the family that can lead to children becoming overweight or obese. We have found that just a few differences in behaviors can make the difference between the path to [being] overweight and obesity, and that of maintaining healthy weight children.”



“Gaining a greater understanding of home behaviors and dynamics is critical to addressing childhood obesity in a holistic manner,” added Cathy Polley, VP health and wellness at FMI. “FMI is working to address the issues that lead to childhood obesity, and our partnership with SymphonyIRI on this important new research is the latest step in these efforts.”



The new research identified five factors that can make the difference between one or more children becoming overweight or obese, and all children maintaining healthy weight:

  • Value of influencing key influencers – Despite the hype about social media, very few parents of healthy weight or overweight/obese children visit these sites for key information. Both types of parents focus primarily on primary care physicians, other medical resources, friends and relatives, as well as health-and-wellness websites, books, magazines and newspapers, and nutritionists/dieticians to gain critical information;
  • Involvement in purchase decisions and food preparation – Children in healthy weight families tend to be more involved in food purchase decisions. In addition, parents in healthy weight families are more likely to be involved in preparing and cooking most meals (89% versus 82% in overweight/obese children);
  • Healthy habits translate to healthy weight children – Households with healthy weight children have fewer rules about eating than those with one or more overweight/obese children (46% for healthy weight families versus 51% for families with one or more overweight/obese children). The traditional family adage of “finish what’s on your plate” does not serve children well: just 28% of families with healthy weight children apply this rule versus 38% for families with at least one overweight or obese child;
  • Play is important – The study found that 78% of healthy weight children play inside for 30 minutes or more per day, versus just 71% of overweight/obese children; and
  • Attitudes about health translate to weight – Parents of healthy weight children place a premium on most activities that lead to healthy weight. These include daily exercise (valued by 92% of healthy weight family parents versus 88% of parents of one or more overweight/obese children), access to fruit and vegetables in school (89% versus 85%, respectively) and limiting fast food (86% versus 83%, respectively).


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