Childhood obesity has been a cause for concern for some time throughout the US and it’s prevalence rates have been rising for some time. Recent studies have shown that single parent housholds carry a substantially higher rate of childhood obesity.
There are a couple of reasons for this, ranging from increased poverty rates through to a time deficit. There is also a correlation between these populations and having lower food education in general. As such there are a few relatively simple solutions from a governmental policy and health intervention level.
The Rates of Childhood Obesity
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that the percentage of overweight children in the United States has been steadily increasing rapidly. As of 2004 it reached a startling 17% . Children between the ages of 6-11 years were found to be at the highest risk of being overweight with 19% falling into this category.
Childhood obesity has very serious effects on both the long term physical and psychological health of said children.
It increases the risk of a multitude of conditions ranging from hypertension and type 2 diabetes all the way to coronary heart disease, liver disease, and even asthma. Additionally, being overweight can often lead to bullying, with the child later developing psychological issues as a result.
The Relationship Between Single Parenting and Childhood Obesity
Higher Risk of Obesity: At this point multiple studies have demonstrated a notable correlation between single-parent households and childhood obesity. Children from these households have been shown to have worryingly higher BMIs compared to those from traditional two parent households. This association is even more prevalent among girls and Black children.
Dietary Consumption: As you’d expect dietary factors play a crucial role in obesity. Children from single-parent households tend to have higher calorie and saturated fat intakes compared to those from dual-parent households, this also lines up with them generally being lower income households. Overall they tend to consume more high calorie foods, snack more often while engaged in sedentary activities, and be exposed to more advertisements promoting unhealthy foods.
Physical Activity: Single-parent households generally have a lot more time constraints and seem to have more difficulty incorporating regular physical activity into their routines, especially in the context of ourdoor activities that require transport or planning. . This can lead to insufficient physical activity levels among children in these households.
Obesogenic Behaviors: The lack of shared household responsibilities and the demands of single parenting can result in reduced homemade meals and shared family meals and tend towards more television time or video game time rather than more physically taxing factors for the parent.
Socioeconomic Factors: Of course one of the more obvious reasons is simply lack of money. Which can affect food choices and the availability of healthy options [1,3].
What Governments and Public Health Officials Can Do for Interventions
The findings of studies we referenced give some ideas for tackling the issue of single parent household childhood obesity issues and guide the development of effective interventions.
Family-Based Interventions: Clinicians and public health programs should focus on developing family based interventions that target single-parent households. These interventions should address not only the child's behaviors but also involve the parent, providing support and resources to promote healthier lifestyles. This should include consideration for the time and budget constraints that are common in these households. Working with child care settings such as the Eat Well Play Hard in Child Care Settings campaign can be particularly useful, especially in single parent common areas.
Parental Involvement: Parents both single and dual play a crucial role in shaping their child's eating habits and physical activity levels. Engaging parents is essential.
Education and Support: Single parents may benefit from education and support regarding healthy meal planning, time management, and stress reduction.
Collaboration and Cultural Sensitivity: Collaboration among healthcare professionals, educators, and community organizations is essential to address the complex factors contributing to childhood obesity in single-parent households.
Tackling Rising Obesity Rates In Single Parent Children
Children from single parent households are far more likely to be overweight, as such the development of interventions designed specifically to target these communities is essential.
There are extra time constraints, stress and budget concerns, as such any interventions should be simple, practical and doable on the parents own time.
However, one large barrier to overcome is the psychological barrier in such parents and they must be convinced of the importance without feeling shamed or they are likely to be unresponsive.
1 - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31129999/
2 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2922726/
3 - https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1367493519852463