Watching television, eating family meals and the safety of the neighborhood all play a role in children's weight, according to researchers at the University of Missouri.
The study surveyed more than 8,000 children between kindergarten and third grade to identify eating and activity factors associated with school-age children's weight. Researchers grouped the children into three different groups: 1) those who were not overweight during kindergarten and first grade but were overweight by third grade, 2) those who became overweight during kindergarten and remained overweight through third grade and 3) those who were never overweight.
The researchers found children who watch more television and eat fewer family meals are more likely to be overweight once they reach first grade. Children who watch more TV, eat fewer family meals and live in neighborhoods perceived by their parents as less safe for outdoor play are more likely to be overweight from kindergarten on.
"Intervening quickly on children's behalf is of the utmost importance," the researchers write. "Clinical overweight among this age group tracks notably into adulthood."
The researchers conclude: "When working with families to prevent and treat childhood weight problems, professionals should attend to children's time spent with screen media, the frequency of family mealtimes and parents' perceptions of neighborhood safety for children's outdoor play."
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