Father's obesity may affect child's social skills

Father's obesity may affect child's social skills

Children of obese fathers are more likely to have difficulty interacting with others, according to a new study which shows that weight of parents may cause developmental delays in kids, affecting their motor skills and problem solving abilities.

Children of obese fathers were more likely to fail measures of social competence and those born to extremely obese couples also were more likely to fail tests of problem solving ability, researchers have found.

Researchers from the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), found that children of obese mothers were more likely to fail tests of fine motor skill - the ability to control movement of small muscles, such as those in the fingers and hands.

"The previous US studies in this area have focused on the mothers' pre- and post-pregnancy weight," said Edwina Yeung from NICHD.

"Our study is one of the few that also includes information about fathers, and our results suggest that dad's weight also has significant influence on child development," said Yeung.

Researchers reviewed data collected from more than 5,000 women enrolled in the study roughly four months after giving birth in New York State between 2008 and 2010.

To assess development, parents completed a questionnaire after performing a series of activities with their children.

The test is not used to diagnose specific disabilities, but serves as a screen for potential problems, so that children can be referred for further testing.

Children in the study were tested at four months of age and retested six more times through age three.

When they enrolled, mothers also provided information on their health and weight - before and after pregnancy - and the weight of their partners.

Compared to children of normal weight mothers, children of obese mothers were nearly 70 per cent more likely to have failed the test indicator on fine motor skill by age three.

Children of obese fathers were 75 per cent more likely to fail the test's personal-social domain - an indicator of how well they were able to relate to and interact with others by age three.

Children with two obese parents were nearly three times more likely to fail the test's problem solving section by age three.

It is not known why parental obesity might increase children's risk for developmental delay.

Researchers note that animal studies indicate that obesity during pregnancy may promote inflammation, which could affect the fetal brain.

The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.

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