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January 05, 2017

Study: Obese parents, including dads, linked with developmental delays in children

The study found children of obese parents lacking in social abilities, problem-solving and fine motor skills

It makes sense that parents’ diet and exercise habits can play a role in their children’s physical health outcomes, but a new study suggests moms' and dads' weight issues may also be linked to their children’s brain development.

The study, conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, links parental obesity – that of both mothers and fathers – to children’s development delays, including lagging behind in social abilities, problem-solving and fine motor skills.

To come up with these findings, the researchers took a fresh look at old data from a study that looked at mothers' physical health before and after pregnancy in relation to the developmental progress of their 4-month-old children. The participants' children were analyzed at regular intervals throughout the study until age 3.

For that study, the women – 5,000 participants in all – also provided information on the weight of their partners.

Using the combined data, the NIH researchers were now able to draw the following conclusions:

  1. Children of obese mothers were nearly 70 percent more likely to be behind in fine motor skills by age 3. 
  2. Children of obese fathers were 75 percent more likely to be lagging in personal-social domain, which is an indicator of how well they were able to relate to and interact with others, by age 3. 
  3. Children with two obese parents were nearly three times more likely to be behind in problem-solving by age 3.
The researchers noted that these findings may play a significant role in highlighting the risks obesity plays in conception, pregnancy and early parenting, as well as the importance of providing effective intervention for obese couples who wish to have children or are expecting. 

 Read the full study findings here.