Children of obese parents may be at risk of developmental delays, according to a study by researchers at the National Institute of Health in the US. 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.
Previous studies in this area have focused on the mothers› pre- and post-pregnancy weight.The new study is one of the few that also includes information about fathers, and results suggest that dad›s weight also has significant influence on child development. The research indicated that about 1 in 5 pregnant women in the United States is overweight or obese. For the study, the researchers reviewed data collected from more than 5,000 women who enrolled in the study roughly 4 months after giving birth between 2008 and 2010.
To assess development, parents completed the Ages and Stages Questionnaire after performing a series of activities with their children. The test were not designed to diagnose specific disabilities, but served as a screen for potential problems, so that children could 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 obese mothers 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. While noting that it is not known why parental obesity might increase children›s risk for developmental delay, the researchers said that if the link between parental obesity and developmental delays is confirmed, physicians may need to take parental weight into account when screening young children for delays and early intervention services.