It’s no secret that children model adult behaviors they observe from their earliest years. After all, who else are they likely to spend more time with than their mother? New research offers specifics about what kind of effects, for better or worse, this can have on kids.
The five-year study by researchers in Australia found a mother’s dietary and television-watching habits directly influenced their children’s body mass index, or BMI, and their lifestyle patterns.
The study of more than 400 children and their mothers found that women who followed healthy diets high in fruits and vegetables were more likely to have children who picked up those good habits and have a healthy BMI. In contrast, children of mothers who reported watching more than 130 minutes of television each day were more likely to have unhealthy lifestyles, and higher BMIs.
More than 50% of the kids had healthy lifestyles and mid-range BMIs, while 17% had unhealthy lifestyles and high BMIs. Interestingly, about 30% of the children had unhealthy lifestyles but low BMIs. The researchers noted kids in this category had the lowest birth weights and lowest percentage of mothers with obesity, which may have contributed to the lower BMI scores.
There’s no doubt that children learn by imitating what they see every day, the good as well as the bad. The team said their study underscores the importance of setting good examples early, especially during this critical period, which can put a child on a path toward obesity … or healthy habits.
This can also be a teachable moment for mothers, who can be motivated by the love for their children to change their own unhealthy ways.