Being a parent is very challenging. From sudden tantrums to managing house chores, to feeding and potty training, it is not strange that parents have their patience wearing thin and getting stressed every day.
There are several studies relating the stress levels of parents to different diseases and psychological conditions of children. This time, a new study suggests that maternal stress is very toxic to the development of children’s weight.
It’s not just prenatal stress, the correlation continues even through childhood. Maternal stress contributes to obesity in children, this is especially so in the first year of the child’s life. Researchers found this to have a long-lasting effect, especially on girls.
Study on Maternal Stress and Obesity
German researchers analyzed the data from the LiNA mother-child study. The said study which started in 2006 follows hundreds of mother and child pairs from infancy onwards to investigate the effects of their lifestyle and living environment to their childhood development. The study is particularly focused on the subsequent occurrence of respiratory diseases, allergies, and obesity on children.
To perceive the stress levels of the mothers, they were given validated questionnaires with stress-related topics. This includes their fears, worries, general satisfaction, and how they cope with the daily demands of parenting.
The results revealed that if the mother’s stress levels were high during the period after birth up to the first year of pregnancy, there was a higher chance of the kid being overweight for the first five years. On the other hand, maternal stress during the child’s second year of life showed little relation to the weight development of either gender.
There is a long-term impact especially if the child is a girl. According to Dr. Saskia Trump from the Berlin Institute for Health Research, girls tend to be more affected by psychological factors than boys.
“It seems that daughters of stressed mothers, in particular, are at increased risk of becoming overweight. There are studies that demonstrate that psychological factors such as perceived maternal stress may be experienced less intensely or may be better compensated by boys.”-Dr Saskia Trump, Berlin Institute for Health Research.
Identified Stress factors
There are many possible causes of stress for mothers. Aside from occasional pesky children, one of the major roots of stress is environmental and financial factors. The study revealed that mothers with higher stress levels were usually those who have poor living conditions or low household income. The environment, such as traffic or noise levels also affects stress.
The researchers called the first year of life of the children to be a sensitive phase. It is important to pay attention to the condition of mothers during this period and take perceived stress seriously. By improving the well-being of mothers it will also prevent their children from becoming overweight.