Divorce As Obesity Villain

A 2013 Norwegian study found general and abdominal obesity to be more common in children of divorce. The subjects were 3,166 third-graders. The researchers found that kids from broken homes “were 50% more likely to be obese and almost 90% more likely to be abdominally obese than those whose parents were married.”

As for boys specifically, TIME Editor-at-Large Belinda Luscombe wrote,

[…] the likelihood of unhealthy weight was even higher. They were 63% more likely to be generally overweight than boys with married parents. And they were 104% more likely to have too much weight on their waist.

Various other studies had already spotlighted links between child obesity and the mealtime quarreling, breakfast skipping, binge eating, and compulsive overeating that seem to be typical of too many dysfunctional families. Sociologists wondered, and still wonder: Does poverty cause divorce, or does divorce cause poverty? A strong case can be made either way. When money is tight, the potential exists for endless disagreements over how to use the scarce resources.

When both parents need to work outside the home they might be lucky enough to find jobs on different schedules, so an adult can always be on duty (even if day-sleeping) and they don’t have to pay for child care. Most likely, the partners seldom meet. When they do, the talk is all child-related logistics. How does this efficient, economical plan affect the marriage? This is only one of a hundred possible examples of how even a solid union can be eroded by economic stress. Uncertainty, instability, and anxiety are real, and so are doughnuts and beer.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other

Yet, difficult as it is to stick together during financial rough patches, divorce is frequently even more impoverishing. Running two households is prohibitively expensive. Maybe the father moves out. The Scandinavian study authors cited research showing that…

[…] women usually take a bigger financial hit when divorced, they usually get custody of minor children and they usually do the bulk of the cooking in most households. All of those things will be harder to do as a single parent…

Maybe the mom and kids have to move in with relatives. That situation can’t help but cause a complete set of emotional and adjustment problems, for everybody. If the dad is still around, and the kids visit him, that is another whole new environment to get used to. Many children do not thrive under shared custody arrangements. The constant switching back and forth is disorienting, and, on the practical side, it offers opportunities for older kids to slip away and get into mischief.

Or one parent may leave the area, which presents its own set of problems. As if all this were not bad enough, parents badmouth each other, and enlist the kids as messengers or pawns in their conflict.

And then, there are variables like physical and psychological health, income level, religious influence, cultural values, and individual disposition. Multifactorialism is unavoidable, and endlessly complicating. And the kids may blame one or both parents for wrecking their lives, and stuff the anger down into cold storage by drowning it with food and drink.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Boys of Divorced Parents Twice as Likely To Be Obese,” TIME.com, 06/04/14
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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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