Caregivers of obese children feel isolated and blamed

11 September 2017
Mother and daughter preparing food

A Canadian study looking at the experiences of caregivers to obese children has found they feel isolated and blamed for their children’s obesity.

The study, published in the journal Clinical Obesity, surveyed parents and caregivers involved in a paediatric weight management programme.

The researchers also found that the caregivers appreciated peer support groups to share experiences.

The study found that parents and caregivers reported that their own earlier efforts to encourage behavioural change in their children were met with resistance and dismissal.

However, once their children started on the weight management programme, caregivers perceived that their own messaging about health and wellness had greater impact if reinforced by the health providers.

Moreover, caregivers felt supported and validated by educational content presented in the group-based sessions and some reported less conflict about healthy eating at home.

This was further enhanced by educational sessions on improving communication between caregivers and children.

However, the authors say caregivers need continual support.

”The caregivers spoke to the overall difficulty of behavioural change and expressed the need for ongoing support to maintain lifestyle changes after programme completion,” they say.

The study found that caregivers expressed feelings of personal responsibility, blame and social judgement about their children’s obesity.

The authors say group-based sessions for caregivers may help to alleviate these feelings because they provide social support which might help caregivers develop skills to manage these feelings after programme completion.

They say healthcare providers need to look carefully at how they can support caregivers of obese children.

“We suggest that other obesity programmes might consider providing healthy lifestyle education in a manner that ameliorates caregivers’ tendencies to internalize discourses of social judgement and blame.

“Future studies could more comprehensively examine the cost-effectiveness of providing caregiver support sessions for stigma and the impact on treatment outcomes,” they say.

Read more about this study walking in the shoes of caregivers to obese children here.