Grandparents' Care Makes Children Chubby, New Study Says

By iScienceTimes Staff on July 1, 2013 3:46 PM EDT

fat child
Children in the care of grandparents are more likely to be chubby or obese, a new study finds. (Photo: Reuters)

Children who are babysat by their grandparents are more likely to be overweight, according to a new study published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.

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In the study, researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland, studied 9,000 families in the United Kingdom over a period of two years. Each family had at least one child who was between the ages of nine months and three years old.

Children who were were looked after by their grandparents were 22 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than those who were looked after by their parents or babysat by neighbors, the researchers found.

As the study's author, Antti O. Tanskanen, points out in the study's abstract, grandparental involvement in child rearing being seen as something harmful is the opposite of what used to be the case.

"Previous studies show that in many pre-modern and traditional populations the presence of a grandmother correlates with increased child survival rates, maybe as a result of improved child nutrition," Tanskanen says.

But now, according to Tanskanen, that idea might be outdated.

"Grandmaternal investment aimed at improving grandchildren's nutritional status in subsistence societies may have different outcomes in contemporary affluent societies."

Several causes may contribute to grandparents making their grandchildren chubbier. Grandparents are more likely to give their grandchildren sweets like cookies and cake, and they often have less energy than parents, so kids in their care aren't moving around as much.

Aric Sigman, a health education lecturer and psychologist, told the New Zealand Herald that another cause could be that grandparents today are older than ever, and "their nutritional understanding is from a different era so their simple understanding of what makes children fat is not as developed as that of later generations."

This isn't the first study to show a connection between grandparental care and obesity. In 2010, a study published in the International Journal of Obesity claimed that three-year-olds raised fulltime by grandparents were 34 percent more likely to be overweight.

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