Are Parents to Blame for Childhood Obesity?

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Childhood obesity is an epidemic in the United States. One out of five children in the U.S. are obese. In fact, “Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese ("Obesity rates among," 2011). The childhood obesity rates have steadily risen since 1980 and many children are now suffering from what were once thought of as adult illnesses, such as elevated cholesterol levels, hypertension, arthritis, and diabetes. Several internal and external factors contribute to childhood obesity; however, many people believe that parents are primarily to blame for obese children and adolescents. On the other hand, medical professionals and sociologists have studied the consistent decline in physical activity and external societal influences that help to contribute to childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity is comprised of several internal components. It is commonly believed that obesity is caused by a gene produced during the perinatal stage of human development that increases the likelihood of weight gain in children. The perinatal phase of development occurs, “from the twentieth week of gestation to the twenty-eighth day of newborn life” ("Perinatal,"). In fact, “predisposition to obesity seems to be caused by a complex interaction between at least 250 obesity-associated genes and, perhaps, perinatal factors” (Ebbeling, Pawlak & Ludwig, 2002). In addition to genetic factors for obesity, children who are bottle fed have a higher tendency to be overweight or obese than their counterparts who are breastfed. “The explanation for this finding could relate to permanent physiological changes caused by some intrinsic factor unique to human milk or to psychological factors, such as locus of control over feeding ra...

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