You work hard to be a good parent. You worry about applying too much pressure, about missing some emotional need in your child, about creating the perfect family for your child.
As we all know, perfection is impossible. Every childhood has its ups and downs, and every family is dysfunctional in its own way. But doing your best has value and a new value has emerged recently. As described in a new study from Great Britain, children who are badly treated by their parents are 36% more likely to grow up to be obese adults. Which means that children who are treated well – your children – are more likely to grow up healthy.
The link between abusive childhood experiences and poor health has been documented before. A joint study in the United States by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the more “adverse experiences” occur to children (age 18 and younger), the greater the likelihood of adult difficulty with high blood pressure, depression, drug use, and – yes – obesity.
What sort of abusive experiences are we talking about? According to the British study, severe childhood maltreatment includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. It is estimated that 1 in 5 children in the United Kingdom experience maltreatment consistently or severely, leading to emotional and physical health effects in adulthood. Dr. Andrea Danese, lead author of the study writes, “being maltreated as a child significantly increases the risk of obesity in adult life…. our findings highlight the serious long-term health effects of these experiences.”
The authors estimate that for every seven cases of childhood maltreatment that are avoided or remedied, one case of adult obesity could be prevented.
Which brings us back to you and your children. Too often we tell ourselves that the harsh discipline we inflict is for the children’s “own good.” We spank, we yell, we treat our kids badly, with the notion that they need to “shape up” or “that’s the way the world is.”
But if we really have our children’s “own good” at heart, we will treat them kindly. Doing so may avoid for them a whole host of later problems, including even obesity.
© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.