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18 June 2013

Parents’ TV Habits Affect Children’s Weight for Life

Keywords: parents, survey, television, Western Europe, eating behavior, food, food intake, health, kids, preschoolers, teens, tweens,

In most families watching television is an important leisure time activity. However, every family has other television viewing habits. Some watch television too often, others have rules concerning time spent watching television. According to a study in Journal of Children and Media family viewing habits during childhood can affect weight status later in life.

Take aways

  • Frequent in-home television watching during childhood leads to overweight later in life. 
  • Teaching children to not become frequent television viewers and to be critical about the television content reduces the odds of overweight as adults.
  • Policymakers should know that they can prevent overweight by encouraging parents to teach their children to be critical television viewers and to reflect on their own television habits.

Study information

  • The question?

    Do parents’ television habits during childhood affect weight status as an adult?

  • Who?

    1,377 participants, between the ages of 25 and 54

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    The researchers used data from the Family Survey of the Dutch Population (FSDP): a nationally representative sample. Participants filled out a questionnaire including retrospective questions about their television use during their childhood, their parents’ television habits, and strategies to regulate television use at home. In addition, they reported their weight and length at age 20 and their current age. Participants who were underweight, severely obese, or who reported having no television at home during their childhood, were excluded from the study. Only participants who were not living with either of their parents and were older than 25 years at the time of the study were included.

Facts and findings

  • Parent’s television habits at home affected their children’s weight in adulthood.
  • In particular, parents who watched television frequently increased their children’s odds of being overweight in adulthood. 
  • Watching television together increased children’s odds of becoming overweight later in life. 
  • Parents who taught their children not to watch television too often and to be critical about the content on television reduced their children’s chances of becoming overweight later in life.