Parental obesity linked to delays in child development, study suggests

January 2, 2017
This is an image of a weight scale. Credit: CDC/Debora Cartagena

Children of obese parents may be at risk for developmental delays, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. The investigators 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. 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.

The study, appearing in Pediatrics, was conducted by scientists at the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

"The previous U.S. studies in this area have focused on the mothers' pre- and post-pregnancy weight," said the study's first author, Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., an investigator in NICHD's Division of Intramural Population Health Research. "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 ."

Dr. Yeung and her coauthors cited research indicating that about 1 in 5 pregnant women in the United States is overweight or obese.

In the study, authors reviewed data collected from the Upstate KIDS study, which originally sought to determine if fertility treatments could affect child development from birth through age 3. More than 5,000 women enrolled in the study roughly 4 months after giving birth in New York State (excluding New York City) between 2008 and 2010. To assess development, parents completed the Ages and Stages Questionnaire after performing a series of activities with their . The test isn't used to diagnose specific disabilities, but serves as a screen for potential problems, so that can be referred for further testing.

Children in the study were tested at 4 months of age and retested 6 more times through age 3. 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 were nearly 70 percent more likely to have failed the test indicator on fine motor skill by age 3. Children of obese fathers were 75 percent 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 3. Children with two obese parents were nearly three times more likely to fail the test's problem solving section by age 3.

It is not known why parental might increase children's risk for developmental delay. The authors note that animal studies indicate that during pregnancy may promote inflammation, which could affect the fetal brain. Less information is available on the potential effects of paternal obesity on . The authors added that some studies have indicated that obesity could affect the expression of genes in sperm.

If the link between parental and is confirmed, the authors wrote, physicians may need to take parental weight into account when screening young children for delays and early interventional services.

Explore further: Children born by cesarean section may have a greater risk of obesity

Related Stories

Children born by cesarean section may have a greater risk of obesity

November 14, 2016
Children delivered by Cesarean section may have an increased risk for obesity compared to children born vaginally, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016.

Calling your kid 'fat' could be counterproductive

June 1, 2016
(HealthDay)—Two studies highlight the complex relationship between parents' perceptions and their children's weights.

Proper maternal folate level may reduce child obesity risk

June 13, 2016
Proper maternal folate levels during pregnancy may protect children from a future risk of obesity, especially those born to obese mothers, according to a study led by researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Mothers' excess pregnancy weight gain, elevated blood sugar 'imprint' obesity in children

May 6, 2016
Children whose mothers gain excess weight or have elevated blood sugar during their pregnancies are more likely to become overweight or obese during their first decade of life, according to a new Kaiser Permanente study published ...

Infertility treatments do not appear to contribute to developmental delays in children

January 4, 2016
Children conceived via infertility treatments are no more likely to have a developmental delay than children conceived without such treatments, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, the ...

Moms' pre-pregnancy obesity tied to ADHD, other issues in kids

May 1, 2015
(HealthDay)—Children whose mothers were very obese going into pregnancy may face an increased risk of emotional and behavioral problems, a new study suggests.

Recommended for you

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.