Frequent watchers of Supernanny and Wife Swap may come to the conclusion that bringing your kids up with a firm hand will prevent them from turning into nightmares, but scientists reveal that being too strict can be detrimental.
Researchers found that one of the key things – apart from presumably your kids leaving home at the first opportunity – is that it is likely to make your child obese.
Scientists studied the effects of a rigid parenting style strong on rules and light on affection and dialogue. Households where the attitude that “children should be seen and not heard” still prevailed were more likely to generate overweight youngsters.
The Canadian researchers looked at a population of 37,577 children aged 11 and younger, comparing those with very different kinds of parents.
One parent group set boundaries, but were generally affectionate and happy to discuss behaviour with their children. The other imposed strict rules but showed little affection and was unwilling to negotiate.
Children of the authoritarian group had a 30% higher chance of being obese at age two to five, and a 37% higher chance at age six to 11.
Lead researcher Lisa Kakinami, from McGill University in Montreal, said: “Parents should at least be aware of their parenting style.
“If you’re treating your child with a balance of affection and limits – these are the kids who are least likely to be obese.”
The scientists compared parents’ answers to a cross-sectional survey, then categorised parenting styles and matched them to children’s body mass index (BMI).
BMI is a measurement that relates height and weight and is often used to define overweight and obesity thresholds.
Poverty was also associated with childhood obesity, but parenting affected the BMIs of children regardless of income level, the scientists found.
The findings were presented at an American Heart Association meeting in San Francisco, US.