Weighing kids could make them put on weight
Weighing children to identify those who may be at risk of becoming obese could make them put on more weight, new research has found.
The National Child Measurement Programme sees primary school pupils weighted and measured annually, with their parents informed of the outcome in 'feedback' letters. Introduced a decade ago, it was thought that parents would be able to help their child if they knew the youngster had a weight problem.
However, the latest findings show that this method may have the opposite result and see kids turn to comfort eating if stigmatised.
Over 3,500 Australian schoolchildren were analysed by psychologist Eric Robinson of the University of Liverpool and his team, with the pupils' weighed and measured every two years from the age of four or five until they turned 12 or 13. Their parents were also involved, being asked to define their children as underweight, overweight or normal weight.
While all of the kids put on weight as they got older, those whose parents dubbed them bigger than average put on the most pounds. It wasn't just those who were overweight that this applied to though, as kids whose parents thought they were overweight, whereas they were in fact a normal size, also got heavier.
These results suggest the parents' outlook is what affects their kids weight, and that being labelled as overweight could lead the kids to over eating. Or, relatives may be convinced that their offspring are too big to exercise, or require more food to cater to their hunger.
Results were presented at a leading medical conference. Of the findings, Dr Robinson and co-researcher Dr Angela Sutin from Florida State University in the U.S., explained: "Contrary to popular belief, parental identification of a child being overweight is not protective against further weight gain, rather it is associated with more weight gain across childhood.
"There is a greater need than ever to systematically assess the effectiveness of child measurement and screening interventions delivered to parents."