Universiteit Leiden

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Parents responsible for obesity in children?

‘The idea that overweight and obesity are the fault of parents and/or the child, is rubbish.' Roxanna Camfferman, who specialises in child and adolescent studies, explains her proposition. Her PhD dissertation is on the role of upbringing in child obesity.

Why this proposition?

‘I formulated this proposition because in my dissertation I demonstrate that parents play an important role in the healthy lifestyle of their children. The likelihood of overweight and obesity is greater if parents fail to respond to their children with sensitivity. In such cases, children may not learn how to handle their emotions. This lack of sensitivity can also result in a disturbed stress system, which in turn has an effect on the hormones in the body, which can increase the appetite.

‘However, my aim is to stress that we shouldn't look only at parents' upbringing style.  Society as a whole also plays a role. Economic circumstances such as unemployment on the part of parents often causes more stress in families, with all the attendant consequences.  And then there's supermarket marketing aimed at children; because the packaging of unhealthy food often features children, this encourages them to ask for these products. This poses yet another challenge for parents. Human biology makes it easy for people to gain weight, but very difficult to lose it. The reality is highly complex, and it doesn't help to put the blame on parents.'  

PhD defence 23 May