An Iowa State University sociology professor is trying to find out the facts on how fathers who don’t have custody of their kids impact the things the kids eat. Susan Stewart says studies have shown that the involvement of the father is linked to greater rates of obesity in both boys and girls. But, Stewart says her studies have proven one popular assumption about dads to be false.
Stewart says there’s a stereotype that single dads are more likely to take their kids to fast-food restaurants more than other parents. Stewart says while men eat out more then women, the myth about taking their kids out to eat more often "just isn’t true." Stewart says the debunking of that myth is good news for kids. She says the fact that children of non-resident fathers don’t eat more fast food and actually eat better, is positive.
Stewart says the positive influence of the father is import for families that are split up. Stewart says kids in non-traditional families don’t eat as well as kids in two-parent families, as they have more "disordered eating, skipping meals and things like that." She says the involvement of the father helps as the kids eat better. Their studies show the financial support from fathers is an important factor too.
She says they found that kids living in households that receive child support are more likely to eat dinner. Stewart says the involvement of fathers overall is a real positive thing, as there’s one more parent monitoring the kids and making sure the kid’s nutritional needs are being met. Stewart says the researchers plan to do further analysis on sex, race and class differences in the effects and differences by the children and their fathers’ weight status.
Stewart is also working with researchers from ISU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies on research to examine the relationship between stress and childhood obesity. That study is being funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.