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THE CAUSES OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY

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By thisistwitchy  •  September 28, 2004 11:14 AM

Mike Fumento has a new article about the link between childhood obesity and television. He cites a number of scientific studies, one of which estimates that almost a third of childhood obesity could be eliminated if TV viewing were reduced to an hour or less per week.

For a different angle, see Mary Eberstadt’s new book, Home-Alone America. In Chapter Three, “Why Dick and Jane Are Fat,” Eberstadt argues that the rise in childhood obesity is caused in substantial part by the absence of parents in the home. Children in absent-parent househods, she notes, spend more time in front of the TV, do not breastfeed, and spend less time outside playing than children with at least one parent in the home. All of these behaviors are associated with increased obesity.

I enjoyed Eberstadt’s book and am extremely sympathetic to her core thesis–surely it is desirable to have at least one parent stay at home with the kids–but I was not completely convinced on this particular point. Eberstadt herself cites an article that says obesity is rising more rapidly among adults than children–a fact that does not seem to conform with her “absent parent” thesis. She cites only two studies that show a relationship between maternal labor force participation and childhood obesity. One of these studies showed that increased matermal employment could explain only 6-11 percent of the growth in childhood obesity. The second study was published in an obscure journal and no details are provided. Neither study seems to have paid much attention to mothers who work from home (like me) or stay-at-home dads (like my husband).

Reviews of Eberstadt’s book are available here, here, and here.

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