The study looked at the eating habits and body weight of only children – referred to by researchers as "single buttons" – and found that they had less healthy eating habits and drink choices than families with many children.
"Several studies in addition show that only children are more likely to be overweight or obese," says Mut, who did not participate in the study.
"Why is that? While this study does not answer this question, it is useful to build research that will ultimately provide clearer answers," Mut said.
What It Means To Be "Only"
Singletons have long fascinated researchers. Early studies focused on the many negatives of society, mistakenly believing only children, the idea that a child would become firm, selfish, self-centered, competitive, excessively spoiled and unable to share if raised by himself. Or it would most likely become self-absorbed hypochondriacs.
"Many people accept that only children are defective and so many studies of achievement and personality have been done," says Tony Falbo, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin who has been researching singletons since 1
"On average, only children receive more education and they score higher on various achievement tests," Falbo said. "In terms of personality, they are doing well. They have relatively positive personalities and are not more prone to mental illness than any other."
"We know that obesity is very strongly linked in families, so it is certainly possible to explain the difference in this study," Mut says.
However, lead author Chelsea Kraht, a researcher at the Biomedical Research Center at Pennington at the University of Louisiana, believes the results can be explained by the differences in planning and organization required by mothers with many children.
"With many kids, you plan a little more than your meal. So we will have more food at home. We will probably have less fast food," Kracht said in an interview with R. magazine on nutrition and behavior.
Mut offered several other options. "There may be more food to go around. Or that they're less active because they don't have a partner to play with. Or maybe there's a biological factor in the game," Mut said. "It's hard to say for sure, but it's a question that researchers are trying to clarify."
Falbo is currently researching adolescents in unfamilies and finds that they spend more time on screens, which diminishes their ability to be active.
"They don't bump the siblings and they jump up and down and do the kinds of things that the siblings do," she said.
"My research also shows that they are more likely to eat fast foods often," Falbo says. "With respect to the entire research area of obesity, the more home-cooked meals you eat, as opposed to eating fast food, the less likely you are to have a high body mass index."
The good news, Falbo says, is that this behavior is correctable. "You have to reduce screen time [and] to control the amount of fast food. That's doable," she said.
Muth agrees: "While we do not understand all the ins and outs of why, we know that there is a significantly increased risk of childhood overweight and obesity only for children.
" The parents of only children who are familiar with this increased risk may be able to prevent overweight or obesity in their child by paying extra attention to creating a healthy and active home environment, "she said.