CHICAGO – New research from SymphonyIRI Group Inc. (formerly named Information Resources Inc.) and the Food Marketing Institute (F.M.I.) reveals the attitudes and behaviors of families with one or more overweight/obese children differ little from those with all healthy weight children.

“Many myths and misperceptions continue to exist about childhood obesity,” said Thom Blischok, global president, Innovation and Strategy, SymphonyIRI.“This new research is the first of a series designed to probe into the attitudes, behaviors and rituals within the family that can lead to children becoming overweight or obese. We have found that just a few differences in behaviors can make the difference between the path to overweight and obesity, and that of maintaining healthy weight children.”

Five factors were identified in the research that can make the difference between one or more children becoming overweight or obese and all children maintaining healthy weight. These include:

  • Involvement in purchase decisions and food preparation – Children in healthy weight families tend to be more involved in food purchase decisions (76% of healthy weight families vs. 72% in families with one or more overweight/obese children, including accompanying parents on shopping trips (68% vs. 64%). In addition, parents in healthy weight families are more likely to be involved in preparing and cooking most meals (89% vs. 82%).
  • Healthy habits translate to healthy weight children – Households with healthy weight children have fewer rules about eating than those with one or more overweight/obese children (46% for healthy weight families vs. 51% for families with one or more overweight/obese children). The traditional family adage of “finish what’s on your plate” does not serve children well: just 28% of families with healthy weight children apply this rule vs. 38% for families with at least one overweight or obese child.
  • Play is important – The study found 78% of healthy weight children play inside for 30 minutes or more per day, vs. just 71% of overweight/obese children. Similarly, 84% of healthy weight children play outside for 30 minutes or more per day vs. 79% for overweight/obese children.
  • Attitudes about healthy translate to weight – Parents of healthy weight children place a premium on most activities that lead to healthy weight. These include daily exercise (valued by 92% of healthy weight family parents vs. 88% of parents of one or more overweight/obese children), access to fruit and vegetables in school (89% vs. 85%, respectively) and limiting fast food (86% vs. 83%, respectively).
  • Value of influencing key influencers – Despite the hype about social media, very few parents of healthy weight or overweight/obese children visit these sites for key information. Both types of parents focus primarily on primary care physicians, other medical resources, friends and relatives and health and wellness websites, books, magazines and newspapers and nutritionists/dieticians to gain critical information.

To download the “Childhood Obesity: Crisis in America” Executive Perspective, please visit: