Involving fathers in child care lessens obesity risk, study shows

By Greg Hamilton • Published: August 3rd, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s long been known that having a father involved in his child’s life in positive ways is a great help to the child’s development, but new research points to a very specific advantage: The child is less likely to become obese.

When dads help their children with chores such as brushing their teeth, getting dressed and getting ready for bed, the children are 33 percent less likely to be obese at ages 2-4, according to a study at The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. In results published in the online journal Obesity, every one-category increase in the times that dads took their kids for walks or played with them outside also cut their risk of obesity by a third.

The researchers looked at data from 3,900 children born in 2001 who came from two-parent households. More than half were white children and about 15 percent of the families were below the federal poverty line. On average, the mothers worked part time and the fathers worked full time.

Previous studies have shown that fathers spend more of their time with their young kids playing rather than engaging in the not-so-fun areas of child care such as bathing and getting dressed. While fathers are increasingly becoming more involved in this side of care, moms still do most of the heavy lifting.

Interestingly, the study showed that moms made most of the early childhood health care decisions and pediatricians routinely targeted mothers, leaving many fathers feeling left out of the conversation.

The researchers concluded that encouraging fathers to get more involved in all aspects of child care could lead to healthy lifestyle habits that last a lifetime.