You can protect your child from obesity by showing them love and support

Many members of the Yellowbrick.me community have expressed interest in learning the science behind parental support. And so we interviewed an expert in this area – Shervin Assari, MD, MPH – who was happy to teach us a little about how being a supportive parent affects child obesity. But what exactly is parental support?

“It is the emotional support, love, warmth, and closeness that each of us as a parent shows to our children.” – Shervin Assari, MD, MPH

Dr. Assari is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health (CRECH) – part of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. He recently published new research examining the link between supportive parenting and changes in adolescents’ body mass index (BMI) as they grow up. Cleopatra Howard Caldwell and Marc A. Zimmerman collaborated with Dr. Assari on the research.

They followed a group of late adolescents from 2000 to 2012. Parental support was measured at the beginning of the study. BMI was measured at the beginning and then again 12 years later.

So what did the data show? The key finding is that high maternal support helped protect the child’s health over the 12-year period…and only for daughters, not sons. Paternal support was not associated with changes in obesity.

Many more studies would be needed to fully understand how parental support is related to health. But for now, Dr. Assari has a message for the Yellowbrick.me community:

I have a 6 year old daughter whose name is Gandom. It is fascinating to know that the quality of time I spent with her now, shapes her future health. The amount of love and warmth you show toward your children is extremely important, and will protect them against obesity in the future. So, the message is simple: Make sure your kids know you love them very much.” – Shervin Assari, MD, MPH

Want to read the full publication? It is easily obtained here and it is FREE to download because the publisher supports Open Access publishing!

Assari

Researcher’s Bio:

Shervin Assari, MD, MPH, is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health (CRECH), School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

He currently works under the guidance of CRECH Director, Cleopatra Howard Caldwell. With Dr. Caldwell, Shervin analyses the Fathers and Sons Intervention data to test hypothetical mechanisms that explain health protective effects of enhancement of parenting among African American men. Under her guidance, he is also analyzing data from the Flint Adolescent Study (FAS), a cohort with 18-years of follow up, to explore long term trajectories of mental health and health behaviors of African American adolescents and young adults. He has also used data from the National Survey of American Life, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study.

Dr. Assari has published more than 70 peer-reviewed manuscripts in peer review journals. He is currently an associate fellow of the International Academy of Sex Research (IASR) and American Psychological Association (APA) and serves on the Awards Committee of the American College of Epidemiology (ACE) to select recipients of the Abraham Lilienfeld and Outstanding Contributions to Epidemiology awards.  He has served as a peer reviewer for American Journal of Public Health, American Journal of Health Behavior, Chronic Illness, Annals of Health Behavior, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, International Journal of Public Health, and International Journal of STD & AIDS.

Featured photo by bs70 [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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