Scarring impact of parent’s weight comments to offspring
Parents who make remarks about their children’s weight can find their words have a lasting impact.
In a U.S. study it was found that those who had had their weight questioned by mums and dads as kids were more likely to think they needed to shift the pounds as adults, even if not overweight.
Scientists from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab looked at 500 women in their 20s and early 30s to garner results, asking the participants about their body image. The group was also quizzed on how often their parents said something about their weight.
Regardless of the participant’s weight, experts found that those who recalled comments from their parents were more likely to think they needed to lose weight, wanting to drop between 10 and 20 pounds (4.5 - 9 kilograms).
“We asked the women to recall how frequently parents commented, but the telling thing was that if they recalled it happening at all, it had as bad an influence as if it happened all the time,” lead author Professor Brian Wansink said.
“A few comments were the same as commenting all the time. It seems to make a profound impression.”
He added that weight comments can have a “scarring influence”.
Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut, explains that girls in particular are exposed to various messages about thinness and body weight which can mean a woman’s value is “closely linked” to their appearance.
“Parents who have a child who’s identified as having obesity may be worried, but the way those concerns are discussed and communicated can be really damaging. The research shows it can have a lasting impact,” she said.
Results were published in journal Eating and Weight Disorders.