Children of Married Parents have Lower Obesity Risk: Study

First Posted: May 23, 2013 05:00 AM EDT

A novel finding claims that children belonging to households where the parents are married are less likely to be obese, according to a news release.

"Childhood obesity is a significant public health issue in our country, with nearly one-third of all U.S. children ages 2-17 overweight or obese. Despite this, very little research has been conducted to explore the impact of family structure on this epidemic," Rachel Kimbro, study co-author, associate professor of sociology at Rice and director of Rice's Kinder Institute Urban Health Program said in a press statement.

The study monitored the obesity rate of children living in non-traditional and traditional family structures across the U.S. Researchers worked on samples of 10,400 children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort. The research also included assessment of children's height, weight and other factors of development such as cognitive functioning.

The study results appeared in the Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk. Kimbro reveals that children living in a traditional two-parent married household are at a lower risk of becoming obese when compared to those living with cohabiting parents.

Kids staying with two married parents had an obesity rate of 17 percent, while those residing with cohabiting parents had a 31 percent obesity rate. The risk of obesity is 29 percent if the child resides with an adult relative, and 23 percent if living with single mothers and cohabitating stepparent families. The study, however, didn't focus on kids living with same-sex couples, as there wasn't sufficient data. Researchers were surprised to see that kids residing with single fathers or in married stepparent households had an obesity risk of 15 percent.

Through the study, researchers hope to inspire future research on non-traditional family structures and their impact on the health and weight of the child.

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