Grand­par­ents ‘bring out the bis­cuits’ and dam­age child health

The Scotsman - - News Digest - By CHRIS GREEN

Par­ents who fre­quently leave their chil­dren with grand­par­ents could be dam­ag­ing their health and ul­ti­mately in­creas­ing their risk of get­ting can­cer, sci­en­tists have warned.

Grand­par­ents are more likely to give their grand­chil­dren too much food and al­low them to skip ex­er­cise, ac­cord­ing to a study car­ried out by re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Glas­gow.

The re­search found the older gen­er­a­tion are also more likely to give chil­dren sweet treats and ig­nore warn­ings about the harm­ful ef­fects of sec­ond­hand smoke. The study, pub­lished in the journal Plos One, con­cluded many grand­par­ents in the UK may “in­ad­ver­tently” be dam­ag­ing the health of their grand­chil­dren.

Smok­ing, a poor diet and a lack of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity were all been iden­ti­fied as risk fac­tors for dis­eases such as can­cer, which chil­dren may carry into adult­hood.

The Glas­gow team an­a­lysed data from 56 stud­ies from 18 coun­tries that in­cluded in­for­ma­tion about the in­flu­ence of grand­par­ents on their grand­chil­dren. Grand­par­ents over­all were found to have an ad­verse ef­fect on the health of the chil­dren de­spite mean- ing well. The re­search found “ex­ces­sive feed­ing” of chil­dren was a sig­nif­i­cant grand­par­ent prob­lem, as was pro­vid­ing meals made from un­healthy in­gre­di­ents.

Sweets were also of­ten used to re­ward, ex­press love or strengthen the bond be­tween grand­par­ent and child.

There was also ev­i­dence the poverty and hunger some grand­par­ents ex­pe­ri­enced them­selves as chil­dren led them to be­lieve ex­tra weight was a sign of good health.

None of the re­viewed stud­ies took into ac­count the pos­i­tive emo­tional ben­e­fit of chil­dren spend­ing time with their grand­par­ents, the au­thors said.

Lead au­thor Dr Stephanie Chambers said. “While the re­sults of this re­view are clear that be­hav­iour such as ex­po­sure to smok­ing and reg­u­larly treat­ing chil­dren in­creases can­cer risks as chil­dren grow into adult­hood, it is also clear from the ev­i­dence that th­ese risks are un­in­ten­tional.

“Cur­rently grand­par­ents are not the fo­cus of pub­lic health mes­sag­ing tar­geted at par­ents and in light of the ev­i­dence from this study, per­haps this is some­thing that needs to change given the prom­i­nent role grand­par­ents play in the lives of chil­dren.”

Pre­vi­ous re­search has stud­ied the way par­ents can af­fect their chil­dren’s sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to can­cer and other dis­eases, but less at­ten­tion has been paid to the role of part-time car­ers.

The au­thors also pointed out more chil­dren were be­ing placed in the care of their grand­par­ents due to a va­ri­ety of so­cial trends.

Th­ese in­cluded the grow­ing pro­por­tion of women in the work­force, ris­ing child­care costs and in­creas­ing num­bers of sin­gle par­ents.

Tam Fry, chair­man of the Na­tional Obe­sity Fo­rum, said it was the case that some grand­par­ents “bring out the bis­cuits at the slight­est hint of a tantrum”.

“Find­ing a dot­ing grand­par­ent who is con­fi­dent enough to fol­low rules laid down by mum and dad to the let­ter is a rar­ity,” he said.

0 Grand­par­ents could leave chil­dren more at risk of can­cer, ac­cord­ing to univer­sity re­search

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