Parenting Styles Examined

In the previous post, we spoke of the four parenting styles defined by the authors of a Canadian study based on government statistics about youth from 1994 to 2008.

The authoritarian parent is described as demanding and not responsive. The authoritative parent is demanding, but balances it out with responsiveness. The permissive parent is responsive, but not demanding, a situation that may or may not lead to trouble, depending on the environment and the child’s basic disposition. The negligent parent is neither responsive nor demanding, and, again, while many young people flounder under this non-regime, others somehow manage to thrive anyway.

When they have authoritative parents, firm but fair, both preschool and school-age children are less likely to become obese than their age-mates whose parents are of the oppressive, authoritarian variety. The study’s lead author, Lisa Kakinami, told a journalist,

Authoritarian parenting may translate to parents not responding to children’s cues of hunger and/or feeling full, and demanding or controlling the child’s energy intake. That results in the children’s ability to regulate their own energy intake being underdeveloped. These children may be more likely to overindulge when given the opportunity.

For readers who know anything at all about childhood obesity, it will come as no surprise that these findings are influenced by economic realities. The effects of these different “styles” play out differently, depending on family income. The preschool children are most noticeably affected by poverty. In families with that designation, the kids are 20 percent more likely to become obese, and, here comes the interesting part — “this risk was regardless of parenting style.”

In this maze of multifactorialism, the challenge is to figure out which of many factors will tend to be activated under different circumstances. That same study found that four widespread risk factors are parental obesity, breastfeeding duration, childhood television use, and nighttime sleep duration.

Different emphasis

Another study, from the STRONG Kids program, concerned itself with 22 contributory factors that had been previously identified, which are all listed here for the sake of completeness:

[…] child ethnicity; gender; nighttime sleep duration; time spent at home watching television per day; TV in view where family eats most meals; TV in bedroom; breastfeeding duration; family status (single parent vs. two parents); maternal education; parent BMI; family history of overweight/obesity; parent nutrition-label knowledge; participation in Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) supplemental assistance program; age of attendance in childcare; childcare nutrition policies; child’s diet intake; fat content of milk; sugar, corn syrup, or honey added to baby’s formula before 1 year of age; perceived dietary quality; neighborhood social cohesion; physical activity opportunities; and parental feeding practices.

Those researchers concluded that the key risk factors, and focus areas for the prevention of obesity, are “child sleep duration, parent BMI, and parental restrictive feeding practices.”

Parent BMI does not really come under the heading of parenting style, but the other two main factors do, as well as many of the remaining 19 factors that were named.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Childhood obesity is linked to poverty and parenting style,”, 11/10/15
Source: “Risk Factors for Overweight/Obesity in Preschool Children: An Ecological Approach,”, October 2013
Photo by The Honest Company on Unsplash

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

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.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


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.

Food & Health Resources