Child Obesity: Is it Fair to Blame Parents?

With the number of overweight and obese people in the United States growing each year, obesity is nothing to scoff at. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports to date that over one-third of American adults are obese, and with a number like that, weight has become a heavy issue in the United States. Obesity has become a modern issue as well, especially considering the ways in which it impacts one’s health. Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancers such as colon and prostate cancer, sleep apnea and other health issues. Unfortunately, the condition isn’t limited to adults. Childhood obesity strikes a different chord with Americans—it’s more difficult to say definitively who is responsible for a child’s medical condition.

Additionally, while parents can willingly turn a blind eye to their own weight issues, children don’t have that luxury. Kids can be cruel, especially when someone stands out from the crowd, and being overweight or obese is a sure fire way to seem “different,” even among friends. But while adults have the ability to make their own decisions when it comes to choosing their diet and whether or not they’re going to exercise, children are necessarily dependent on others in nearly all areas of life, and more often than not, parents and other adults make those decisions for them. From school cafeterias all the way to the White House, many people and organizations have something to say about childhood obesity, and with 17 percent of children and teens ages 2-19 years old reported to be obese, there’s a lot to be said.  Every person with some kind of connection to a child can sound off on childhood obesity, but the voices that need to be heard first are those of the doctors—and the doctors say it’s very likely that parents are a contributing factor to the obesity of their children.

According to SERMO, the number one social network for doctors around the world, a recent poll of 2,258 physicians resulted in 69 percent of physicians stating they believe parents are completely or partially to blame for childhood obesity. One doctor polled said, while obesity can be genetic, there is a large environmental factor at play. Obesity is directly related to diet and exercise, with diet being a major part of the disease. Parents make active decisions when it comes to their children’s diets, and for the most part they act as role models for their kids when it comes to healthy choices in both diet and exercise. It’s important to note: not all the doctors polled believed parents are at fault. Some believed parents are only somewhat at fault, or even not at all. But when a parent is making a poor lifestyle choice for themselves, it’s likely that poor choice will mirror onto his/her child or children.

Obesity isn’t simply caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. There are some legitimate medical conditions that make it difficult to lose weight or easier to gain it, and that is definitely something to remember. But as more and more schools cut recess and P.E. classes, making it more and more difficult for children to exercise during the day, parents are left to make time to get their children to exercise, and it’s up to parents to make smart choices when it comes to what their kids eat.

The child obesity epidemic in the United States isn’t a cut and dry issue. There are a number of factors that go into determining why children are overweight or obese. While many people quickly point to poor food choices and lack of exercise, they also fail to look at socioeconomic factors, psychological problems, race and ethnicity, and a number of other variables that may contribute to obesity. Doctors can simply say it’s the parents’ fault, but no issue, especially one as prevalent as obesity, can have a simple solution. While parents certainly have an impact on their children’s weight, they are hardly the only active determinant. As a nation, we need to look at the entire picture before we start pointing fingers and laying blame; however, as the people making the choices for their children, parents need to make a conscious effort to help their children make smart choices when it comes to what they eat and how much they exercise.


Do you think childhood obesity is the fault of the parent? Do you think it’s cut and dry? Do only poor food choices and lack of exercise cause obesity?




Brittany Valli
Brittany Valli
Crafting stories from a young age, Brittany was destined to be a writer (well, she thinks so). When she's not working on various novels, short stories or screenplays, she can be found exploring Oregon's many landscapes with her husband, tasting some of the best wine, beer and food Oregon has to offer, relaxin' in a hammock, walking her dogs, or laughing at jokes only she thinks are funny. You can find more about Brittany here: (it's a work in progress)