Children whose parents are rigid with rules and skimpy on affection and conversation have a third greater chance of being obese than kids whose parents are more generous with affection and dialogue, according to new research released Wednesday.

The “iron fist” style of parenting led to a 37 percent higher chance of obesity among kids six to 11 years old and a 30 percent higher chance among kids two to five, according to the abstract.

Researchers followed 37,577 Canadian children ages 0 to 11. They compared kids whose parents are generally affectionate, have reasonable discussions about behavior and set healthy boundaries with those whose parents were strict about limits without much dialogue or affection.

“Parents should at least be aware of their parenting style,” said Lisa Kakinami, Ph.D., a post-doctoral epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal. “If you’re treating your child with a balance of affection and limits — these are the kids who are least likely to be obese.”

Researchers used results of a parent survey to categorize parenting styles and analyzed them with respect to children’s body mass index percentile.

Parenting style affected obesity regardless of income level, although researchers found that poverty was associated with childhood obesity.

More than one-third of American children are overweight or obese according to the American Heart Association. Exploring factors at home that may be fueling this public health concern could lead to better prevention and interventions, Kakinami said.

The research abstract was presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions 2014.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

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